A Sleepless Night
Despite my excitement over the enthusiastic reception Jesus received upon his entry into Jerusalem, I did not sleep well that night. While pondering the day's events over a cup of wine I came to realize the source of my anxiety. It was the behavior and attitude betrayed by the rich and powerful as they observed the crowd of admirers welcoming Jesus with songs and praise.
While everyone else was ecstatic about Jesus they were clearly not happy. They made no attempt to disguise their sour looks and disdain for what they were seeing.
I always tried to avoid Pharisees, Sadducees, and all the rest of the so-called elite of the community, always fearful that I might say or do the wrong thing and end up on the wrong side of the law.
But today I made an exception to that rule, and sidled up close to them to keep an eye and ear on their actions. I'm glad I did, I think.
Trying my best to play the role of a naïve onlooker, I cranked my ear in their direction, hoping to catch an idea of what they were thinking.
"Don't you understand," I heard one say. "Can't you see we're accomplishing nothing?"
"Look at this crowd!" exclaimed another. "Before long the entire world will believe in him if we don't stop him!"
My blood ran cold when I heard someone say: "It would be better for one man to die than for the whole nation to suffer." I recognized the man who said that. I believe he was the High Priest that year.
He argued that if Jesus wasn't stopped the people might revolt. Jesus had a certain charisma that they lacked. People loved him and wanted him for their king. Rome would not like that. There was only one king and his name was Claudius. With just a word he could activate the immense wealth and power of the empire, crushing them and their organization.
They were threatened by the charisma that Jesus radiated, by his ability to effect dramatic cures and bring new life and happiness to so many who called on him. He owned the hearts of the people. If he exhibited political ambitions he could easily generate enough rowdy enthusiasm to turn their world upside down.
But he was a newcomer. Their feet were buried deep into the mire of the structure of the country and their hands were filthy with the muck of corruption. There was not one single area of this land that they did not touch. Or know someone who could.
Jesus lacked their power, their organization, their structure. His good works were as nothing to them. What was relevant was his challenge to their authority and their rule. So what if the people were moved and thrived under his charisma? The people and their happiness were nothing. What mattered was that they had the power to do something about him. But, day by day their power was waning and the love of the people for Jesus was growing. Something needed to be done, and done quickly.
Their devious minds went to work. They had deceived the people thusfar with lies and misinformation, innuendoes, promises and deceptions, vague accusations and false testimony. Now they were set to put this vast arsenal in operation to destroy the one man who threatened their power and influence.
Their plan was encapsulated in the shouts that resounded at the close of their meeting. I shuddered when I heard: "Rile up the people!" "Trump up some charges!" "Bribe the harlots!" "Pay the witnesses!" "Threaten his people!" "Pressure them!" "Make them talk! Surely one of his group has something against him! Let's find him!"
Then, my heart stopped beating.
"I think I know a guy," someone slithered. "I think maybe we should talk to him. He might be able to help us."
Those were the words that kept me awake all night. Tossing and turning I kept asking myself "Who are they talking about?"
Peter? No chance! He said he would never betray Jesus. James or John? Maybe they were mad that they wouldn't have cherished places in his kingdom. Thomas? He was always doubtful. Matthew? Maybe he wanted to go back to collecting taxes for the Romans. Judas? He always had an eye for money.
In the middle of the night I cried out "I DON'T KNOW!'
But what about me? How steadfast would I be? What temptations and emoluments might they throw at me? I was every bit a part of the Jesus team as any of the apostles. Everyone knew I wanted to be part of the team. What about the frustration I felt when I was not chosen? Could they be thinking that I could turn on Jesus?