Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Night Before...

I meant to post this last night, but never got to it. A couple of years ago, I wrote a dramatized account of what might have happened the night before the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, from the perspective of Jesus. Since in our church year last night would have been the commemoration of that night, I thought I'd post it. May it spur some thoughts.

The Night Before
by Matt Schur

(c) 2006

Jesus sighed.

He had laid down hours ago, but there he still was, eyes wide open, laying on his side and staring blankly at dark nothingness. He rolled on to his back, eyes gazing upward, sighing again. Then, as a thought crossed his mind, the edges of his mouth curled up almost imperceptibly into an ironic half-smile. "So this is what they call 'the sleep of the just,'" he thought.

He turned his head to the left--there, not too far away, he could make out Peter's silhouette. Jesus chuckled softly. Peter was easy to pick out in the crowd of sleeping disciples. Yes, he was a big, broad, burly, hairy man. But what made it even easier to identify Petros, even if it had been pitch-black where they were, was the snore. Yes, in the daytime, James and John may have been the Sons of Thunder, but Peter's snoring definitely qualified him for that distinction when it came time to sleep. Jesus made a mental note to find a good time tomorrow to tell Peter that joke. He'd appreciate it.

But it had to be tomorrow.

That thought erased his smile, bringing him back to where he was and why he couldn't sleep in the first place. Rolling to his side, Jesus propped up his head with his left hand and looked around. There, sleeping on the dirt, were James and John, and Andrew, Thomas, Phillip, Judas...


Jesus sighed heavily as he found where Judas was sleeping. Running his heart's hand over the pages of the day now ended, it was all he could do to keep from groaning out loud. The whispers had already started amongst the disciples. They had started even before the woman had come with the perfume. Jesus smiled again as he remembered the faith of that woman, the tears, that beautifully scented perfume, her hair brushing his feet...

...and Judas' rebuke.

His words were intended to sting, and they hit their mark, as the woman had stood there, stunned, speechless. "What a waste! That money for that perfume could have gone to help the poor!"

Judas was right, of course, but he had said the right thing for the wrong reason. Judas knew it. The disciples knew it. Jesus knew it.

And yes, the whispers had begun. "Judas doesn't care about the poor...he just wanted more money in our purse that he could skim off the top!" Judas was the keeper of what little money the disciples had. For some time a few of the others had suspected Judas of taking his own personal "tithe" for himself.

Yes, Jesus thought, the other disciples were right to distrust Judas, but not for the reasons they thought. Jesus sighed again. Judas wasn't stealing from the communal purse. In fact, Jesus had noticed in the past few days that there seemed to be more silver jangling in the purse than there had been before they had arrived in Jerusalem. Before they had arrived, the treasury had been down to almost nothing. Jesus had privately wondered how they were going to be able to afford the supplies to celebrate the Passover. But not long after the cries of "Hosanna!" died away, the purse had suddenly become a bit fuller.

Thirty pieces of silver would be more than enough to take care of things.

He knew that the Jewish authorities were looking for a way to have him killed, and as such he'd have to find a way for him to celebrate the Passover with his disciples in secret. It was of utmost importance that he wasn't found before the Passover. So much was riding on that detail.

So why had he sent Judas out to make the initial preparations?

Oh, Judas! Common sense dictated that anyone but Judas should be in charge of arranging a safe place for them to meet, but Jesus knew it was right. Judas was good with logistics, with detail--that's how he had ended up in charge of the communal purse in the first place. Who else in the group would have come up with the idea of having an anonymous man, easily identifiable by the fact that he was doing woman's work--carrying a jug of water--lead them to a "safe house" where they would give a code sentence to the owner, who would lead them to a room where everything would be set up in advance for the Passover feast? Jesus smiled. Judas could have had a career as a Roman spy, and he had told Judas as much when Judas explained all the preparations to him earlier that day.

But Judas hadn't smiled back when Jesus had said that, nor had he been able to make eye contact. He had just mumbled a quick "thank you," uncomfortably shifting his feet, and walked away.

The other disciples had no idea of the errand Jesus had sent Judas on that afternoon. Tomorrow, Peter and John would be amazed when Jesus would have them go and find the man with the jug of water, and the safe house, and the furnished room. But such things do not just happen on their own. There must be preparation. And there's always a cost.

Always a price to be paid.

Jesus let his eyes wander again, finding each of his sleeping disciples one by one. He momentarily held his breath, listening. There was no sign of restlessness in any of them, no squirming in their sleep, no movement at all, and no sound save that of heavy sleep breathing and Peter's snoring.

He stood up, and carefully made his way over to where Judas lay. Gazing down, he watched Judas sleep. In the moonlight, he saw Judas' eyelids twitch--"he must be dreaming," Jesus thought. Then he knelt.

And prayed.

It was a short prayer, but one that came from the very depths of his being. "Father, forgive him, for he knows not what he does."

He knows not what he does. How could he? How could he have even the slightest inkling that with his precious thirty pieces of silver he had begun a chain of events that would change the world? How could he know that the money he had received for Jesus' blood he had that very day used to purchase Jesus' blood? That he had purchased a Passover lamb with the money he had received for betraying the true Passover Lamb?

How could he know that the betrayal of one man would lead to the redemption of the whole world?

Jesus sighed.

He leaned over and kissed Judas on the cheek.

Then he silently stood up, returned to where he had earlier been laying so restlessly, and laid back down.

Almost immediately, Jesus fell asleep.



Rev Scott said...

And you think I need to save stuff for publication? This is wonderful, Matt. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. Just awesome.

Trish said...

Thanks for sharing the story. I dug it. Especially the "thank you" you put on Judas' lips to Jesus. I like this because in ancient Hebrew, there was no real word for "thank you." Instead, the "thank you" was actually "I praise you." Thanking=praising. Gives a new spin to the story in my mind; but one that made a lot of sense! We can praise even when we don't know it. God works in ways we don't always see. Anyway, very creative, and I appreciated. Thanks.