It Was a Miserable Night in The City
Jerusalem was a mess. The earthquake after the death of Jesus leveled much of the town. There was debris everywhere. The city was enveloped in smoke from dozens of fires. The temple was in ruins, the sacred veil torn to shreds. There were reports of long-deceased spirits walking the earth, their graves ripped open by the violent tremors. The crying of children and barking of dogs filled my ears.
I wandered aimlessly through the deserted and burning city, recalling the events that preceded this disaster: the triumphal entry of Jesus into the city; my bizarre confrontation with Judas and his satanic transformation; the ruthless arrest of Jesus; the horror of his phony trial; the duplicity of the crowds, the same people who had been strewing branches before him a week ago now yelling "Crucify him!"; his painful crucifixion; the sight of Mary his mother beneath his cross; and finally his burial in a tomb donated by Nicodemus.
My hopes died with the thud of the stone as it sealed the tomb. The Roman soldiers wondered why they had to guard this corpse. Did Pilate think the dead body would roll away the stone? Or were his friends going to steal him in the middle of the night? That was laughable. That bunch of cowards was nowhere to be found. They disappeared when he was arrested and had not been seen since. The soldiers were embarrassed to have such a useless assignment. It would be a boring night for them; they would probably fall asleep.
Certain events stood out in my mind. Though I lost track of Judas I later learned that, overwhelmed by guilt, he returned to the temple and threw the thirty pieces of silver at the feet of the priests, acknowledging that he had given an innocent man a sentence of death. His body was later seen by many as it hung from a Redbud, a beautiful flowering tree that I fear will forever be tainted with the name "Judas Tree."
Almost as depressing was the sight of Peter, who promised to forever stand beside Jesus, denying that he even knew him. Three times he failed as a man and as a disciple, and revealed himself to be a coward and braggart. It was the most disgusting sight of my life and made me cry for how it must have hurt Jesus. He gave Peter a pathetic look when he heard him deny his name. I don’t think even the blows of the soldiers or the crown of thorns were as painful for Jesus as this most bitter betrayal.
And if Peter failed so pathetically, what of the other disciples? They were in hiding, fearful that the same crowds that came for Jesus were now looking for them. Their main concern was for their own safety and welfare. Jesus told them they would be pursued and persecuted, just as he was; and that they would be hunted down and put to death. Rather than bravely honor his memory they hid in fear.
Almost as cowardly was the Roman overseer named Pilate. Unable to see that justice was done, he caved to an insane mob and released a criminal instead of letting Jesus go. By washing his hands, he tried to absolve his guilt. But I'm sure his cowardice will be remembered whenever people read the story of Jesus. I prayed that in the future we would have better leaders with more fortitude and substance. But I fear Pilate, Caiaphas, the Pharisees, and all the rest of their ilk will always be with us.
I despaired at the apparent futility of the life and deeds of Jesus. I was convinced he was the Son of God. All his wondrous deeds and miracles made that obvious to me. But now, a doubt was beginning to grow in my mind. How could he have let this happen?
I heard that he spent a rough night in that garden before Judas and his thugs showed up. He was heard agonizing about a cup and that he must drink it. He said his Father had placed it before him. He said his Father sent him here precisely so that he would suffer and die. He was to take away our sins and establish a new covenant.
He promised us eternal life if we believed in him. We must drink his divine water that will never let us thirst again. He himself is to be our food, and it is by consuming his flesh and blood that we will obtain eternal life. I could not understand this, although I believed it. It remains a mystery to me, and I guess it always will.
In my despair over this miserable night and this miserable town, I had completely lost track of time and place. The situation was so depressing that I just didn't care; I didn't care if I ever ate or slept or even lived anymore. In my mind Jesus had held up a candle of hope for our poor wretched world and foolish mankind had forcibly snuffed it out.
As I found myself standing near that fateful Redbud tree, the thought passed my mind that perhaps Judas had the only answer that made sense on this miserable night.
(This article is adapted from The Jesus Diary, by Dave Mishur. The Big Tent, a sequel that uses the same technique of an anonymous diarist to examine The Acts of the Apostles, will be published on May 1 and will be available at Amazon and other online retailers and can be ordered at any bookstore.)