“I, Judas Iscariot, a troubled soul, do hereby declare this to be my last will and testament. In a few moments I will end my life, because I have committed the most despicable deed and I can no longer live with myself.
Just eight hours ago, I betrayed my Master, the one I believed would deliver my people from the Roman oppressors. Now he hangs on a cross, beaten, sure to die before the sun goes down. I will die before him, though only God knows what waits for me on the other side of death.
I began to follow Jesus three years ago. I had heard of him, of course. His teaching was like no other: plain, understandable. A power radiated from him. When he beckoned me to follow him, I cast aside my labor, left my father and mother, and went with him. Something in him kindled hope in my own heart.
The miracles amazed me; such power! Could such power be used against the Romans? Could Jesus drive them out and restore the Kingdom of Israel, the Kingdom of God? That was my hope, my dream, my passion.
I knew Jesus was closest to Peter, John, and James, of course. But I knew I was special to him. Soon after our journey together began, he approached me with the sack of money given to him by some well-meaning women. ‘Look after it,’ he said. He trusted me.
Why then did I betray this man? I thought he was losing touch with reality. During the past three months, he talked about his death and then coming back to life. The words were clear enough, but we did not understand what he meant. For all his talk about the Kingdom of God, it was plain he was not going to raise an army to fight the Romans. The hopes I had for our people began to dim.
During this last week, it was obvious Jesus was on a collision course with our leaders. It was on Tuesday, when he was teaching in the Temple, that something in me broke. He spoke of being a judge, of coming back at an unexpected time. I saw him turn his back on financial security for his ministry and watched perfume worth a great sum flow onto the floor, wasted with the dust.
The thought entered my mind: ‘What if I told the religious leaders where to find him?’ They would reward me. Jesus would have the chance to show his power and be the Messiah I expected him to be. Or I would realize my dreams had been placed in the wrong man. Either way, I could force him to reveal who he truly was.
I made my deal with the religious leaders; I sought my chance; I led the soldiers to the place I knew he would be. Then I called him “Master” for the last time and kissed him.
The soldiers pushed me aside. I stood on the fringes of his trials. A sinking feeling began to overtake my heart. Why was he not displaying his power? As I watched him stand before Pilate, a wave of nausea hit me. He was going to let himself be killed. I knew nothing he had done was deserving of death. A rush of memories flooded my soul: the time he calmed the storm, the way he smiled at me, the compassion in his voice when he told me last night, ‘Do it quickly.’
As they led him off to Skull Place, I charged the smirking priests. ‘He’s innocent,’ I cried. ‘Stop this! Take back your money.’
With cynical smiles they smirked, ‘It’s out of our hands now, and yours.’
I threw the money at them and ran from the plaza. I passed a rope dealer and a plan leapt into my mind. I purchased a length of rope, enough to do the job.
Now, I sit under the shade of this tree, penning these words, in hopes that whoever finds them will learn from me: I should have stayed with Jesus, even when I did not understand.
I leave my cloak, my sandals, and my all my possessions to my brother Justus. May my shame not touch him or my parents.
A hangman’s noose awaits. God have mercy on my soul.”
Will you stay with Jesus even when you do not understand?