The full moon casts pale shadows around us as we enter the olive grove. I stay close to the one leading the way, the one known as Judas. A strange trepidation steals over me, and I grip my club a little tighter. What kind of resistance will we meet? This troublemaker Rabbi has some loyal followers, no doubt about it. Yet, more than that—he has…well…power. Maybe not all the stories are true. Like the latest one about him raising a man from the dead. Ridiculous! Only God himself could do that. However, there is no doubt he has some unusual abilities.
The air is cold as we move between the trees. I can hear the soft murmur of voices ahead of us.
“Is that them?” I whisper to Judas.
“Yes,” he hisses, and I am reminded of just how much I dislike him. I had to count out the thirty silver coins when he agreed to hand over the Rabbi, and I remember wondering what kind of person sold out their friend for a bag of silver.
“Remember, he’s the one I kiss,” he whispers to the soldiers behind us as we enter a small clearing.
Our flaming torches light up the startled expressions of a group of men, scrambling to their feet. We outnumber them by far, I realise with relief.
“Greetings Rabbi.” Judas is kissing one of the men on the cheek.
He’s the one! I hold my breath, waiting for the soldiers to step forward and arrest him, but nobody moves.
“Who is it you want?” His words are calm and strong compared to my own wavering, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
“I am he.”
As he speaks, a strange terror fills me, and a force—stronger than a gale wind—pushes me backwards and down onto the ground. When I rise again on shaky legs, I am surprised to find that the soldiers around me have also stumbled and fallen to their knees.
“Who is it you want?” he asks again.
This time the commander murmurs, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
“I told you that I am he.” He looks at his followers, and I see the love in his eyes. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.”
His disciples have been statue-still to this point, but suddenly one of them springs to life. I see a flash of steel and watch it arcing towards me. At the last moment, I duck away from the sword, but pain sears through my head—a breath-stealing, maddening pain that wrenches a scream from my lips and drops me to the ground. My hand flies to my ear, but it is gone; all I feel is a gush of warm blood. Everything is spinning around me—faces, torches, trees—and for a moment, I feel myself slipping into the welcoming embrace of unconsciousness.
Then one face comes into sharp focus again. It is Jesus. He is leaning over me and touching my ear, and suddenly the pain is gone. In his eyes, I see the same love he showed to his disciples, and it confuses me. I have come to arrest him, to harm him; how can he look at me as if I am a friend or brother?
Some of the soldiers pull him away from me, as another helps me to my feet. My hand and robe are wet with blood, yet as I feel for the gaping wound that had been there a moment earlier, I realise it is healed. My ear is back. The pain is gone. What…? How…?
I stand dazed in the midst of the swirling commotion. I am dimly aware that the soldiers are binding Jesus with ropes, and that all his disciples are running from the clearing. One soldier is asking if they should chase after them and the commander replies no. I can just make out Judas standing on the edge of the clearing—eyes downcast—as the soldiers push Jesus past him.
“Come on Malchus!” my cousin’s voice pierces through my daze. “The High Priest is waiting.”
The High Priest. The trial. Yes, Jesus is to go on trial.
I shuffle to catch up with the retreating soldiers and find myself alongside Judas, who trails behind them.
“Did you see what he did?” I ask. “He healed my ear.”
It’s difficult to tell in the moonlight, but I think he scowls at me. “What of it? I’ve seen him heal countless people.”
“But, surely that means…?”
“It means that, just maybe he…” My words trail off.
“It means nothing.”
Suddenly my dislike turns to a deep loathing. How could this snake betray one whose eyes whisper love and whose fingers spread healing? How could he sell a man like that for a useless bag of silver?
“I’ve got to stop it,” I say, starting to run. “We’re making a mistake.”
He laughs humourlessly. “It’s too late for that.”
And deep in my heart, I know it is true. It is far too late for that.
The account of the Garden of Gethsemane is found in John 18:1-14