For the re-telling of this tale, “The Kiss of Judas”, I made my preliminary notes from the Holy Bible. But I also borrowed some facts from the Gospel of Judas. It is the latter text that mentions that Judas purchased a field with the wages of his sin and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. I wish to avoid this version and intend to base my story on the accounts in the Holy Bible alone.
The purpose of this effort is to try and alter our current perception of Judas. Even though Judas was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, the Bible states that, after the death of Christ, his name was removed from the list and the name of Matthias was substituted in its place. But the Gospel of Judas claims that Judas’ actions were done in obedience to Jesus’ own instructions and it asserts that Jesus taught the true Gospel only to Judas, his most trusted disciple and closest associate. Following the crucifixion of Christ, his other disciples met their ends in the following manner: Peter, considered the foremost among the disciples and occupying a prime position in Catholicism’s pantheon, was martyred in Rome some thirty-four years after Christ’s death during the persecution under Emperor Nero. He was crucified upside down at his own request since he felt he was unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
Andrew, after the arrival of the holy spirit, was the first to bring the gospel to the Soviet Union and also preached in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey and in Greece, where he was ultimately crucified on an x-shaped cross. James (the son of Zebedee) is thought to have been beheaded by King Herod near Palestine. According to most historians, Philip’s death was exceedingly cruel. He was impaled by iron hooks in his ankles and hung upside down to die. Bartholomew is also known as Nathaniel was martyred in Armenia. Sadly, most agree that he was basically flayed to death by a whip and literally torn to shreds. Thomas was a missionary in India and was establishing a church there when he was stabbed with a spear and died from the wound. Matthew was a missionary in Ethiopia where he was arrested. He was staked or impaled to the earth by spears and then beheaded. Another apostle called James the Less (to distinguish him from the other James, the son of Zebedee), was thrown off the roof of a temple and then beaten to death. Not much is known about Simon’s death but it is commonly believed that he was also crucified. The apostle Jude went all the way to Persia and it was there that he was crucified by the Magi (not the same ones who were seeking the child King, Jesus). John was the only disciple to die a natural death… that is by old age and not martyred.
In the beginning, Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph on a donkey, accompanied by all his twelve disciples. There he was accosted by several Jewish soldiers dressed in Roman uniforms. They addressed Jesus thus: we are the guardians of this city and the servants of the honourable Pontius Pilate. We are here today to arrest you in his name and upon his instructions. Please accompany us without any delay or demur.
Hearing these words, one of Jesus’ disciples, named Judas Iscariot, was overwrought. He told the soldiers, this man is our leader. He is the son of God and is a holy person. We will not permit you to arrest him. Leave this place now if you care for your well-being. At this, the jewish soldiers smiled derisively. Is this sorcerer your leader? Know this: he is neither the son of God nor a holy man. On the contrary, he is a charlatan, a conjurer who claims to have magical powers, which he uses to fool you into believing that he is indeed the son of God and has been sent down to earth to save you. Please therefore allow us to arrest him and take him away with us. We will present him before Pilate who will give him a fair hearing before deciding upon the appropriate punishment. Infuriated by these words, Judas took one more step forward and spread his arms wide as though to protect Jesus. Taking courage from his action, the other disciples too stepped forward. The faces of the townsfolk reflected their anxiety. Judas looked at the soldiers and said sternly, you devils in human form, leave this place. Or your lives will be forfeit. Anyone daring to lay a finger on our master will have his limb severed and handed back to him. Let he who wishes to learn the measure of his arm come forward. Moshe, the leader of Jewish forces, realised that the situation was explosive. Glaring at Judas, he turned to his soldiers and ordered them to retreat. When they saw the soldiers turn and walk away, the people of Jerusalem roared and waved their hands in approbation. Among the crowd stood a woman fully covered in a white robe, with just her eyes showing. It was Sarah, Judas’ love.
Always clad in white, Sarah resembled an angel. Her skin shone like burnished gold. Judas had fallen in love with her at the first sight of her serene face filled with love and kindness. To his delight, she had accepted his declaration of love without any demur, when he first expressed it to her. And verily I say unto you. Trust in God. Do not denigrate anyone. Be helpful to everyone around you, not just to those who have helped you in your life. That is not thankfulness or gratitude. Never forget the people who helped you in your life till death. You may have repaid their debt by returning their favours manifold. But that does not amount to gratitude. Remembrance is real gratitude. Jesus was speaking to a multitude. Listening to his speech, Judas’ eyes glittered. He was watching Jesus fixedly. Every word from Jesus’ mouth enthused him. His mouth muttered involuntarily what a pleasure it was to be with Jesus every minute of his life. He had truly realised that being alone on his own was akin to death. Whenever he was alone, he felt he was being buried alive in a coffin. Such moments of solitude did indeed induce within him feelings of being gnawed alive by hungry and smelly rats. During this time, Judas decided to visit his mother. When he had last left home, she had been bedridden. She hardly spoke to anyone nowadays. Her bedroom was always enveloped in darkness. And she would not allow the curtains in her room to be drawn back. Two of his sisters were her attendants. But they were around only at mealtimes. The rest of the time she lay alone on her bed.
There was another reason why Judas was seated in this pavilion. When he had last met Sarah, she had mentioned that her brother, Abraham, was in the process of putting together a band of seven men to launch a rebellion against the city’s ruling dictatorship and that he urgently needed thirty shekels for this purpose. Judas had heard of Abraham and his revolutionary force. It was Abraham’s plan to start his movement in a small way, slowly capture the imagination of the people, gain their wider support and then mobilise a massive force. Judas, however, felt that it would be no easy matter. He was well aware that going against the ruling dispensation meant death. Pilate’s men were no fools and would almost certainly trap the revolutionaries very quickly. He tried telling this to Sarah. But, she reiterated her immense love for Abraham and pleaded with him with tears in her eyes to somehow raise the thirty shekels so that Abraham may plan his uprising. Moved by her tears, Judas hugged her, kissed her on the top of her head and assured her don’t worry, I’ll somehow raise this sum for you.
While he had promised Sarah out of his love for her, Judas was not sure how he was going to raise the thirty shekels. His first instinct was to approach his father. But his father did not approve of his association with Jesus and he had told Judas many times not to throw in his lot with that mad man. As such, he would not be receptive to any request for money. In addition, where would he go for thirty shekels? He was already spending more than half his resources on his mother’s medical treatment. He approached Peter, son of Kyla, his mother’s step-sister, for the money. Peter refused outright stating he was short himself. Judas was well aware that Peter was lying and was simply avoiding lending him the money. Peter was the biggest date merchant in the town. Just last week his date farm had yielded a bumper crop and the town’s traders had hauled away sacks and sacks of the fruit. But Judas did not blame Peter one bit. Who is a Good Man? Are we right in categorising a Good Man as one who fulfils all our wants and desires on demand? Judas could think of no other way to raise the required funds. He did not want to lie or cheat to achieve this purpose. He knew that to sustain one lie he would have to utter many more. To begin with, he was a poor liar and his memory was in any case like a sieve.
My dearest Sarah,
I truly thought I had died last night. Last week, after we parted, I thought long and hard about all that you had said and found myself not entirely in agreement. I’ll tell you why when we meet next time. Truth be told, you are the best gift I have ever received and I do not wish to lose you. I wish to live and die in your arms. You are familiar with the Hosanna we follow. He certainly is aware of you and has asked me several times about you. A woman afflicted with leprosy had come to him. She was perhaps fifty years old. Her face was putrefied and oozing with pus. She came up to Hosanna and stroked his hands. She then applied perfumed oil onto his feet and worshipped him. The people around were repulsed and shouted at her to get away, calling her a sinful ogress. Jesus looked at the crowd and said don’t revile this woman. She may be diseased but she is pure in soul. Her heart is as soft as down. Don’t judge a person by his or her outward appearance. Their insides may be more beautiful than their exteriors. By the time she left his presence, her face had stopped oozing pus. The desire for you sets me on fire. Sometimes I worry I might erupt like a volcano as a result. Don’t mistake me, Sarah. Whenever I am with you my lust peaks and I wish to graze on you like a herd of sheep. You appear as a wide green field and I am a rampant ram with a distended member feeding off you. I drink of your discharge. Again, please bear with me. Lust has overtaken me and is seeping out of my pores like smoke. I wish to kiss every inch of your body until you gasp for breath. Do you know, in my dream yesterday, the normally reticent you were shouting obscenities? Yes, indeed. It was wonderful! After all, the highest point of lovemaking is the use of filthy expletives. And when a normally reserved girl employs such profanities, it is doubly sweet!
He received a reply from Sarah in two days’ time. It read:
I have borne all the strifes of this life and more. Death is not far behind me. Yesterday I encountered a man with long locks and a stout body. What he said didn’t surprise or shock me. I’ll detail all that he said when we meet next time. Eschew lust, Judas. The present circumstances are not conducive to that. I had a terrible dream last night. I dreamt that Abraham had been captured by Jewish soldiers and his head smashed open. Not just Abraham, but all the members of his group too had had their heads broken and pieces of brain and bone were strewn everywhere along with pools of blood. I fear that such an eventuality will come to pass soon. What are we going to do? It could be your and my turn next. Anything is possible. It’s safer to be watchful.
And as Judas was looking everywhere for thirty pieces of silver, Jewish soldiers arrested his father, ailing mother and his sisters. Hearing of this from some of his friends, an agitated Judas went to meet Sarah. Her house was dimly lit and in partial darkness. There was a burning brazier at one corner to keep the room warm. Sarah hugged and kissed Judas. Both their eyes were wet with unshed tears. As Judas moved his hand from her head towards her waist, there was a thunderous knock on the door.
In the large hall, there were eight columns with a burning torch on each to provide illumination. In the torchlight, Judas’ face took on a yellowish hue and he had a red woollen cloth wrapped tightly around his head. His face was all twisted with worry. Pilate entered the great hall followed by his soldiers who take hold of Judas by his arms and force him to kneel in front of the governor. Pilate looks at Judas and asks him are you in agreement. He does not answer and merely keeps staring at the floor. They were seated for the Last Supper. On the wide table in front of them were laid out unleavened bread and wine. Jesus began relating a parable. A man was drinking at a tavern. In front of him, wrapped in a blue woollen cloth, lay the corpse of an old man. The dead man was about seventy years old and had an ashen face. The drunk takes a good look at the dead body. It is his father’s cadaver. His mother and brother had just now entrusted the body to him and left the place. There was a glittering gold ring on the fourth finger of the dead body’s right hand. The drinker drains his glass and puts it down on the table with a heavy thump. He slowly gets up from his chair. Sways slightly. He then takes his father’s dead body to the cemetery and selects a spot for the grave. He digs a hole six feet deep at that location. The dead body is lowered into the ground with the ring still on the fourth finger of its right hand.
The sky was blue in colour. Jesus stood in the middle of an olive grove and pleaded with God. He then looked at his disciples and said let’s pray. My father, if it is indeed your will then please relieve me of this burden. Not for my sake, but by your will alone. After the prayers, when Jesus climbed down the mount of olives, he found three of his disciples fast asleep. He awakened them and said, this is no time for sleep. Wake up and continue praying.
At that time a group of temple guards armed with swords and clubs entered the Garden of Gethsemane led by Judas. In the darkness, Judas identifies Jesus with the now earth-shaking kiss on his right cheek. Jesus gave Judas a slight smile. He looks at the guards and says you seem to have come prepared with clubs and swords as though to capture a thief. One of the temple guards replies, come with us without any resistance and arrests him.
Pilate asked the assembled multitude who do you want me to free, Barabbas or Jesus? The crowd roared asking for Barabbas to be released while Judas’ lone tearful wail releases Jesus, release Jesus goes unheard. His voice is totally overwhelmed by the bellowing crowd. Judas then hurled the purse containing the thirty pieces of silver in anger on the floor of the hall causing the coins to roll about. Pilate asks him, don’t you want the money? No, I don’t. I accepted them from you thinking that my Hosanna will be able to protect himself from you. But now he has been condemned to die …because of me. Due to my treachery. I don’t need the blood money that accrues to me as a result of Hosanna’s death. I, a part-time sinner now, will turn into a full-fledged sinner as a consequence. When Judas neared the forest, it was shrouded in darkness. Plants, trees and the moon began walking along with him. Judas was devastated by his actions. A snake crawled up to him and asked, what’s your next step? Startled, he kicked out at the snake, which changed into a wolf. Completely bemused, Judas knelt down on the rocky ground and, folding his hands in supplication, considered Hosanna’s plight and pleaded. Father, please forgive me for my sinful act. I couldn’t think of any other alternative. The wolf then spoke to him. Stop belabouring yourself. Christ is being killed for the exact same reason he was sent to this earth. That is God’s will. You did not betray Christ. It was God’s will that caused it. You were merely an instrument, that’s all. Judas sat with his head bowed. His eyes were filled with tears. He had been stoned by young boys at Jerusalem who thought he was a mad man. He was still bleeding from the various cuts on his body. It seemed as if the entire jungle was being bathed in his blood. The wolf then again asked him, what are you planning to do now?
Judas got up and started out towards the centre of the forest area. But the sound of the wolf’s voice continued to follow him. What you are planning is not so simple. I know that you are racked by guilt. But that does not call for your death. That is not the ideal solution. Who is aware of your compulsions? Are you willing to be called a traitor till the end of time? Do you understand the horrible connotation attached to such an appellation? It is easier to die of wounds. They disappear when your body disintegrates. But this is not the same. Long after your body has turned into dust, the ill fame you have earned will continue till the earth exists. Stop running, Judas. You are not a traitor. Circumstances forced you to do what you did. Jesus is well aware of everything. Do not perturb yourself. Sarah is paradise. She awaits you. Her soft hands are ready to stroke your head gently. She will provide you with every pleasure on this earth. You may drink of her discharge deeply and revel in its unique taste. But Judas was paying no heed to all this. He kept running towards the centre of the forest. When he stopped, he found Sarah waiting for him there. Unable to meet her eyes, he selected a tall tree among the many there. He searched the dark ground and found a piece of stout rope. He picked it up and cleaned it of sand and dirt. He climbed onto the tree and selected a thick branch. Tied one end of the rope on that branch. The night was watching his actions fixedly. In a short while, Judas’ lifeless body lay hanging from the tree in the centre of the jungle.