Holy Week 2005


Just for an hour, as Jesus rode down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem, Judas saw a crown; things were going to be all right.

All the disciples had turned out with their families newly arrived from Galilee and there was a fair crowd of onlookers. Some were obviously foreigners and some were simply enjoying the spectacle but there were many serious and then joyful faces; it might not be ideal but it was certainly a step in the right direction. Of course there would be opposition from the Jewish hierarchy and the Romans but Judas had seen enough miracles to convince him that if Jesus (he never called Him "The Master", as the others did), if Jesus wanted the crown of Israel, He could have it.

Out of force of habit he kept an eye out for trouble. The Roman soldiers at the check points were not very interested in this motley procession but he recognised some of the Temple Police mingling with the crowd and he thought he saw that slippery Nicodemus gliding away from the scene; which reminded him, he would go and see Joseph of ARAMATHEA later to get a hefty donation for the fighting fund because even if Jesus could work miracles there would still need to be some sort of fighting fund; after that story of Cana you could imagine Jesus turning anything into anything, except into money.

No, Jesus had been decidedly ambivalent about money, though He did not mind eating and drinking what it bought. The Disciples, on the other hand, were anything but indifferent to money; it caused more trouble than anything else except the rivalry to be close to "The Master". There was even a nasty incident when somebody accused him of stealing from the kitty. A stupid accusation because they all knew how fanatical he was about the cause; but when he reminded them of what Jesus said about the Pharisees who pretended to be pious when they were corrupt, it made no difference. The problem was that people exaggerated what they had actually given; the only one you could really trust was Joseph who gave quietly and never said anything.

He had seen Joseph as he left the High Priest's office after giving back the money. Joseph had been waiting outside the door and when he saw Judas he looked hurt and confused but Judas had stared him down. It had not been so easy during the short interview with Caiaphas as that oily cove Nicodemus was there. As Judas put the money down he could have sworn that Nicodemus gave him a contemptuous shrug but before he could take it in, the diplomatic mask slipped over his face, looking as if it had never moved; perhaps it never had.

Why had he taken the money in the first place? It seemed stupid now but it was his kind of revenge, his way of getting back at Jesus. After all, his problem was that he had seen through Jesus; the others, even Peter, still thought they would be courtiers of Judah. Just before the procession from the Mount of Olives broke Up, Judas had manoeuvred all the young disciples, except for that dreamer, John, to form a kind of phalanx around Jesus; he had got them all chanting "Hosanna to the Son of David!" as they moved towards the Temple Courtyard. If they could just get Jesus to the steps He could make His victory speech on the spot where all the Kings had been crowned. But Jesus had told them to keep quiet and, before Judas could do anything to intervene, He had signalled to Peter, James and John and had slipped away, leaving the remnants of the crowd; and Judas holding the donkey. That had been the last straw.

He took the wretched animal back to its owner and settled the bill. He had heard Jesus say something about borrowing it for nothing; but there was no such thing as a free donkey. Then he had found John and asked him how he could get in touch with Caiaphas and John, all innocent, had said he would have a word with Nicodemus who had been his Scripture tutor.

Judas had not quite known what he would do but there was no point going on with this charade. He had thought that the parables and coded statements were part of an elaborate plan to build support for a coup. Now there were masses of supporters from Galilee, there were sympathisers in the Council and, of course, those miraculous powers. And what was it all for? He did not know any more; he just felt cheated. He had wasted three years of his life, raising the money, making ends meet, haggling, putting some by for the big day; and now there was not going to be a big day. The only chance of preserving Judah from Roman absorption was to throw in his lot with the Temple Authorities. His namesake Judas Maccabeus had fought to preserve the Temple rites against Hellenisation and he would do the same against the Romans.

So Judas had steeled himself to bait Nicodemus with a story about reaching an accommodation between Jesus and the authorities, more necessary than ever after a recent nasty little incident in the Temple. CAIAPHAS had been cold but interested. It would be most helpful for the Jewish cause to keep Jesus under lock and key for a while. Nicodemus had slid back in and CAIAPHAS had changed instantly. It had been good to see a representative of Jesus; he hoped this would lead to a much better working relationship. Judas thought he saw Nicodemus give him a very old fashioned look as he headed for the Treasury.

From the moment with the donkey he never wavered; better, as he heard CAIAPHAS say, that one man should die for the sake of the people; but it had been difficult because he knew that Jesus knew. It was like being in a dream. He went on with his secret life that was not a secret. It had been a relief when he had grabbed the piece of bread from Jesus and almost fallen down the stairs into the street.

Judas never wavered until he saw Jesus crowned with thorns. He had betrayed Jesus but then CAIAPHAS had betrayed him. Once Jesus was sent to Pilate the game was up but, much worse, CAIAPHAS had told Pilate publicly that he would not be a Friend of Caesar unless he condemned Jesus.

There was no way back: no way back to Jesus; no way back to The Temple; no way back to Maccabeus. CAIAPHAS had caved in; Jesus was about to die. All his life he had dreamed of a priestly king. It was all over.

He felt the rope tightening around his plunging neck; and then he saw the crown of thorns transformed into a crown of unbearable light.

Prayer. Jesus, Saviour of the World, may we not be lured away from You by our earthly entanglements. May we, warned by Judas, recognise how close we become to him if we do not stay close to You. Even now, as you are condemned to die for us as Your final act of service, we pray for Your help that we may be Your humble servants, accepting the mission You will for us in Your Church; and, as You declared the Kingdom of Your Father upon earth, may we, stirred by the Grace of Your Passion, proclaim it steadfastly in Your name. Armed with the sacred gifts of the Holy Spirit, may we never betray your obedience to the Father's love. Amen.