Martha leaned over me to refill a few cups and scowled at the commotion going on over my shoulder. A noisy crowd had gathered outside the windows watching our meal, pushing for a better vantage. It was Martha’s brother Lazarus, our host for the week of Passover, who was the desired sight. The scads of pilgrims to Jerusalem were walking the few miles to Bethany to see the “dead” man and listen to Lazurus’ story. Hundreds had pledged to follow the rabbi as a result. I was placing my trust in these people to force Yeshua’s hand into battle. Who wouldn’t fight if you knew you couldn’t die? And the rabbi’s compassion would force him to act on behalf of his people if my plan worked.
My attention was diverted from revolution to Mary who was normally reserved and quiet. She had begun to weep. Sniffling, she rose and pulled an alabaster jar from the folds of her robe. We had been dabbed with a few drops of invigorating cedar oil when we arrived, so I was confused what her purpose with this new oil was. She approached the rabbi and uncorked the bottle, turning its end up and letting all the contents slip out into his hair. The brown liquid dripped down his temples and began to gather in his beard and plop onto his shoulders. A warm, earthy musk invaded my nostrils. It was Nard!
“Stop it!” I jumped up, aghast at the waste. I pushed my way around prostrate bodies to her side. She had saved a few drops for the rabbi’s feet and was spreading it around with her hair.
“Why waste this perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money used in a more noble fashion!” This amount of Nard was worth a small fortune that we could have used for weapons or food for our followers.
“Mary, what are you thinking?” Peter frowned and tried to grab the vial from her hand.
“Leave her alone!” Jesus scolded. “Why are you giving her a hard time about this? She has listened to me and knows I am soon to die. You have a lifetime to do good, but your time with me is limited.”
Mary broke into new sobs and threw herself across the rabbi’s feet. I wanted to slap her. She was encouraging him in this foolishness. I stepped back from the table, stung by the rabbi’s rebuke and confused in my thoughts.
Why does he go on and on about dying? He holds power over death. He holds power over the people. He can even control the weather. Why is he giving up? I was desperate to understand his motives, but terrified that he simply was not the man I wanted him to be.
I made polite with Martha, then walked through the twilight up the road into the city, through the streets of the lower city and up the sets of stairs into the palace district. I don’t how I got where I went. But there I was, facing the gate of the palace of Caiaphas, the high priest of the Temple. I swallowed a lump forming in my throat, wiped my hands on my robe then clapped loudly to the gatekeeper.
I was allowed in when I gave my name and association. As I entered, I heard loud arguing from the courtyard, but silence fell when I approached. My stomach soured as I viewed the table of reclining men. What was I doing here? I almost abandoned my cause.
Then I inhaled the scent of Nard from the head of a vain priest near me, and my desperation flared, propelling me to the center of the hushed group.
“I am Judas, disciple of Rabbi Yeshua.”
“Speak up, boy.”
I lifted my eyes to meet the watery stare of the evil priest and clenched my fist.
“You heard me. What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” I said through my teeth, a fraction louder.
The high priest’s mouth gaped, then a giggle erupted from behind his beard. He caught himself and straightened.
A cheer rose from the hallowed men. A few whooped and slapped each other on the back. I was grieved by the reference to the worthless shepherd who had turned on his flock, but I guess in their eyes, that was what I was. A turncoat. A traitor. A covenant breaker.
“If you think it best, give me my pay.”
“Thirty pieces of silver!” the men shouted in unison. They began to fill each other’s cups and dine with renewed vigor. I was offered a place at their feast, and I am ashamed to say I can’t remember what I did the rest of the night.