This is a speculative account based on ancient sources, legends and traditions.
Jerusalem: AD 30s
The morning after the betrayer received the money, a young physician on horseback stopped at a secluded olive grove on the way to Caesaria. He had received a note the night before at Caphargamala, Gamaliel’s estate, requesting a clandestine rendezvous.
Meeting in the environs of Jerusalem would not have been prudent for the man who requested the meeting. As the young physician stood watching the approaching noontide, the requestor emerged from the trees.
They greeted each other.
“When does your corbita depart for Ostia?” Theophilus asked.
“Tonight I begin my twenty-day journey on the Sea,” the young physician replied.
“You have my appreciation in helping Gamaliel’s daughter with her unfortunate malady.
“Unfortunate malady? She was poisoned. Fortunately, I recognized the symptoms and knew the remedy. She will make a full recovery.”
“And the unborn child?”
“The child was unharmed by the ordeal, most excellent Theophilus. I arrived in time since both mother and child were at Sheol’s door.”
“So both would have died?”
“True, but for some reason the poisonous herb was not as effective as it should have been.”
“Your fame as a physician steadily grows.”
“When you asked me to go there, did you know the reason for the young woman’s distress?”
Theophilus lowered his head. “Temple intrigue,” he sadly replied. “I trust you will keep this matter between us.”
The young physician studied the man before him for several moments and then answered, “Of course. You have my word and my respect. I hope there will be no further intrigue perpetrated against the House of Gamaliel, most excellent Theophilus.”
“You have my word.”
“Your word has always been sufficient. I must take my leave of you before the contrary winds are upon us.”
“May your voyage be without incident and may the fair winds guide you to your destination, Physician Luke.”
Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had come to visit Gamaliel. They were greatly concerned about Lily.
Joseph was curious how the Physician Luke just happened to drop by the night before when he was desperately needed. Gamaliel replied,
“I am not sure. I forgot to ask him why he came to my door since my mind was so preoccupied with my daughter’s wellbeing.”
Nicodemus stated, “I had asked The Teacher this morning to come to your house, but the word to me was that Lily and her child would be fine and had been attended to by someone destined for the kingdom.”
“Destined for the kingdom. May that be true for all of us,” Gamaliel responded.
The week progressed rapidly. As the sun set on that evening which would change the fates of so many, Judas went to the Temple where the young man of the cabal was waiting with the temple guards.
Judas led them to the garden where his Master and the others were. Judas kissed his Master to indicate which one was to be arrested.
The young man who led the temple guards had never been this close to the man he viewed as the troubler of Israel. He was impressed that such a humble and unassuming man could have been the fascination of so many and the envy of the priests and scribes.
The man before him looked totally drained. His cloak spoke of one who had spent a great deal of the night in prayer, but there was a serene air about him.
Suddenly, one of the man’s disciples drew his sword and chopped off the right ear of Malchus, the temple guard who had reached to grab their master. Before anyone could react, the betrayed man picked up the ear and healed Malchus.
The young man who had orchestrated the events stood curious. He had heard of the miracles, but he had dismissed them as fairytales of the uneducated and trickery by the one who performed such unnatural feats.
As they led the teacher away, Malchus stood there overwhelmed by the recent events. The young man came up to him and examined the ear. There were no signs of any damage.
Before he could speak, Malchus turned, dropped his sword and walked away into the shadows of the night. The young man wanted to call to him, but he found that he could not.
The next few hours were a frenzy of excitement since a mob had been raised to accuse this humble man of all sorts of baleful deeds and wanton living such as breaking the Sabbath—or the odious rules imposed on the Sabbath by the elders in their misguided thinking. Religious leaders over the centuries have forgotten that rules and policies are just the human bulwarks against apostasy of the followers where their free will is subjugated to the leaders for their own nefarious purposes.
As the cabal of the High Priest surveyed their machinations, a desperate and grief-stricken Judas interrupted their revelry. He was disheveled and on the verge of madness.
He had learned of his friend Barabbas’ arrest; his plan was unraveling because his teacher had chosen not to fight and the other followers had run like the cowards he knew they were. He wanted to reverse the course of destiny.
When he realized that the crowd before him was incorrigible and his pleas fell on deaf ears and hardened hearts, he threw the bag of silver and yelled in a cacophonous tone “Καταραμένος” as he ran from them into the dark shadows of increasing night. The silver was ejected from the bag and scattered on the floor in the shape of a pentagram.
The young henchman thought that Judas was right. He was cursed for his betrayal and zealous ideas.
The High Priest instructed a guard to pick up the silver. Blood money was a sacrilege on the temple floor.
As the guard picked up the first piece of silver, he screamed, “The fires of Gehenna!” He dropped the shekel and grabbed his hand.
Suddenly, the thirty pieces of silver burned a fiery red for a few seconds as they watched. When the redness dissipated, the coins reentered the bag, and on the floor was the image of Melqart, the patron deity of Tyre.
The young henchman went over and stared at the pentagram image of the pagan god. There was a searing quality to the claret image which hurt his eyes.
The cabal had moved away from the scene. It terrified them, and they wondered what sorcery was at play here within their precious temple.
It was decided to have the bag of silver given to a Gentile to buy a field where the poor could be buried. Perhaps that gesture would be an oblation for mercy.
Stone masons were called to extirpate the image from the floor. Melqart had no place in the sacred confines of the temple.
In the early morning the young henchman walked home. Passing by a grove of trees, the morning light fell upon the hanging body of Judas.
Standing before the man on the tree, he almost felt a sense of remorse, but it was fleeting. He felt that Judas had chosen the easy way out.
As he looked at the sunrise, there was a sudden crackling sound as a branch broke and the body of Judas fell to the ground at his feet. He saw his own reflection in the dead eyes of the man lying before him.
It had been an eventful night filled with strange events and now, as he looked at himself in those eyes, he knew this was not over. He determined that in order to stamp out this madness every follower—whomever and wherever they were—must be dealt with severely, because this was the only remedy which would satisfy him and bring order back to Jerusalem.
So he hurried home to refresh himself. He wanted to be at the crucifixion later that morning to observe who was there as he formulated his plans to deal with The Way, the followers of the man who plagued his thoughts.
The image of himself in Judas’ eyes would haunt him until an encounter on the road to Damascus where Saul of Tarsus would finally find his destiny for the remainder of his mortal life on this planet traversing the cosmos. Saul’s Hellenistic training would serve him well in forging the theology of The Way for centuries to come.
G. D. Williams © 2018