Diary of Judas, a betrayer (Sunday)

UPI Photo/Debbie Hill

He faced Jerusalem from the East looking down the road from the height of the mountain.[1] I followed his gaze. My rabbi wasn’t looking at the spectacular view of Jerusalem or at the tiny villages that lay to our left and right, but at a small flock of sheep being herded down the road toward the Sheep Gate on the North side of the city. I could hear their bleating from the distance and wondered if they were going to Jerusalem as we were for the Passover sacrifices. My stomach dropped at the thought. We were going to Jerusalem.

I glanced at the rabbi for re-assurance. He always had a purpose for our travels, but I refused to believe his current pursuit was surrender. We had heard of the warrant for his arrest in Jericho, and we knew that if the rabbi put a toe in the city, every ambitious and greedy soul would be looking to reveal his location to the authorities. I searched his face. He must have a plan.

He did. Sensing my questions he grinned then turned to face me.

“Take Philip and go to the village.” He motioned to the right. “You’ll see a young donkey tied up as you enter. I want you to bring me that colt. If you are questioned about taking it, say, ‘The rabbi needs it and will return it by nightfall.'”

I knew the colt he was talking about and figured Lazarus had agreed to let us use it for the day. My nerves were calmed as I realized Jesus had made these arrangements the last time we were in town visiting the family. So, he must have unbreakable plans in the city. That’s why he was going, not to turn himself in.

We brought the colt and a crowd back with us. When the villagers saw that the rabbi meant to ride the donkey, they began to buzz with excitement.

“He means to declare himself king!”[2] I heard one man whisper. Mothers began to urge the children to run into the fields for branches while they ran back to their homes for cloaks and blankets.

The blood began to pound in my temples and my spirits were elated. That’s it! He’s going to take the city and establish His throne! I pressed my thigh where my father’s knife was hidden, and knew I could wield it to help my Lord become the new King of Judea.

“Hosanna to the Descendant of King David! You will deliver us!” A joy-stricken father shouted, fist punching the air.

The children had returned and began waving their palm branches and beating them on the ground around the donkey. The villagers laid out their cloaks for the donkey to walk on and began to sing and dance as we made our way down into the city.

“God has sent us a deliverer, the messiah!”

“Death to Rome!”

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” I cried and grasped a branch offered to me.

“Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!” The gathering mass of people began to chant.

I struggled to keep my place by the rabbi as children pushed closer. Dodging leaves and crying, “It is Rabbi Yeshua.[3] Make way!” I almost missed the rabbi’s expression. I was aghast.

Every frenzied cry that was music in my ears was ripping him apart. He was receiving every blessing yelled his way as a curse, as if he were physically struck. He pulled Peter and John close and spoke as he gestured to the city. Peter looked confused. The rabbi began to weep as he continued shouting into John’s ear.[4] The noise of the crowd was deafening. When he was finished talking, I saw his posture sink with each step as we passed through the Sheep Gate and into the city.

Astonished, I quieted my dance and placed my hand on the colt’s rear to keep pace. It was then that I noticed two things, the sheep and the sheep’s stink. Why the rabbi chose this entrance, I could not imagine. The East Gate would have made a more appropriate statement. Here it was all business. Especially today. The tenth. Lamb selection day.

As I lifted my sleeve to cover my nose, the rabbi turned and looked for me. When he caught my eye, he shouted.

“Pick a lamb for our Passover. If you lose us we’ll be in Bethany after Temple services.”

I stopped walking and let the crowd pass. Gradually, the confusion was replaced with bleating and business dickering, and I let my mind lapse into the comfort of commerce. Better to buy a lamb here, than up at the temple where they charged a tax. I noticed the shepherd that had herded his flock down the road before us setting up a stall, but I looked for Bethlehem stock. Bethlehem stock were first-born lambs bred specifically for Passover and special temple sacrifices. They ran expensive, but were guaranteed to be flawless. The rabbi, who I hoped would be king by the time we needed the lamb, deserved the best. I paid the shepherd to deliver the lamb I selected to the house of Lazarus in Bethany, and made my way to the house of Abbas to discover the latest news in the city and look for allies.

This would be an unforgettable Passover.

Texts: Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, John 12:12-19


[1]Zechariah 14:4 says that Messiah would enter Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives to the East of the city.

[2] They deduced this from prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9. The future king would enter Jerusalem riding not on a warhorse, but on the parade vehicle of ancient times – a donkey.

[3] Hebrew for Jesus.

[4] To discover what he spoke, read Luke 19:41-44.

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9 thoughts on “Diary of Judas, a betrayer (Sunday)

  1. Beautifully written, poignant and moving.

    I wonder– what is your source for the donkey being “the parade vehicle in ancient times”? My understanding is that Jesus chose the donkey to fulfill the prophecy that the Messiah would come “humble, and mounted on a donkey’s colt” — but that this entire mode of entering the city was, as God planned, a display of the Messiah in terms of gentleness and humility, in direct and deliberate contradiction to the way kings and emperors went about in pomp and circumstance. I’d be interested to know where you read otherwise.

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    1. “When Jesus gets to the outskirts of Jerusalem, He deliberately sets up a scene that would be familiar to any well-informed Jew. Though we don’t think much of donkeys and mules, they were royal transportation in ancient Israel; Solomon was taken to his coronation on a mule that had belonged to David (1 Kings 1:33-44), and David’s sons all rode mules (2 Samuel 13:29). Kings who ride donkeys and mules are clearly not war-mongers, but they are kings nonetheless. Further, Jesus knew that Zechariah had prophesied of a king coming to Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9-10). When Jesus arranged His entrance this way, He was symbolically declaring His kingship. He is the Greater Jehu, who rode over his followers’ garments into Samaria to destroy the temple of Baal (2 Kings 9:11-13; 10:18-28).”

      http://www.leithart.com/archives/000490.php

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  2. That’s helpful, kbonikowsky. From what I understand, though, horses were not really ridden at all in the ancient Middle East because the lack of stirrups (stirrups hadn’t been invented yet) made their size almost unmanageable. Horses pulled chariots and were used in times of war. Mules, as you said, were the preferred mount of kings. Donkeys, however, were considered “lowly,” even as Zech. 9:9 says, “your King is coming to you, lowly and riding on a donkey.” See this link to IV Press commentary:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=wIA3tH9HqY4C&pg=PA805&lpg=PA805&dq=donkeys+as+kings+mounts+in+ancient+Israel&source=bl&ots=OWF-hNmw2q&sig=0f7KnKgxQlbzODDGPa22LtBcLog&hl=en&ei=37WrTbSGNMPfiAKN7azvDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CDkQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

    When Abigail sent gifts to David to placate him, she put the goods on donkeys’ backs, and rode a donkey herself to signify humility. 1 Sam 25:18-20. Yes, I agree that Jesus was proclaiming that He was fulfilling the prophecy of Zech 9:9. But I do believe He was also proclaiming (even as the prophesy states) that the Messiah would come in humility, proclaiming a kingdom characterized by “not so among you, but the greatest among you shall be your servant.”

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  3. hehe, I never knew there were so many distinctions in breeding the ass! Donkeys, mules, jacks, hinnys, burros, gracious! Here is some more info from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donkeys :

    # In Jewish Oral Tradition, the son of David was prophesied as riding on a donkey if the tribes of Israel are undeserving of redemption.[30] As noted, in the context of the Torah this connoted wealth and affluence befitting the House of David, as at the time commoners are described as simply going on foot.
    # The donkey mostly appears reflecting the natural environment and as an aspect of an agricultural economy. The Bible often specifies whether a person rode donkeys, since this was used to indicate a person’s wealth in much the same way luxury cars do today. (Horses at that time were used solely for war, powerful kings such as Solomon being the only ones who could afford to import them from Egypt.)

    I could be happy with either idea: using a donkey to exhibit humility or using a donkey to exhibit royalty. I like to be contrary, so my favorite is royalty! 🙂

    Thanks for the input!!

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  4. You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a both/and situation, not an either/or. Because commoners usually walked, the donkey signified being more than a commoner. Because kings usually rode mules, the donkey signified humility.

    As an analogy, suppose that the President visited your town, and instead of arriving wearing a designer suit, in a limo with an entourage and a band playing Hail to the Chief, he drove in himself in nice new sedan, with just two SS guys, wearing a good off-the-rack business suit. He doesn’t drive in alone in a 1975 Volkswagon Beetle wearing jeans and a T-shirt, but it’s still humble compared to what you’d expect for a President.

    Both royalty and humilty– works for me. 🙂

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