We’d all had a skinful; the books don’t tell you that.

‘Exhausted from sorrow.’ That, at least, was true.

It started as a celebration, friends at dinner,

food and wine, and more wine. Songs of praise

and heartfelt prayer. Then something seemed to change.

Our friend grew solemn, spoke of death, betrayal,

the end of all we knew. He prophesied

the scattering of the brothers, persecution

and told us he would have to go away.

No wonder we were drunk; it was too much

to take, and wine would dull our frightened senses.

Do I recall it right? He did a magic trick

with bread. It seemed to bleed, accusing us

of murder, desecration, greed and weakness.

We would have cried ourselves to sleep, but he

requested that we walk with him a while.

The night was balmy; chill winds would have strengthened

our resolve and kept us waking. Flesh is weak

and, oh, the scent of that sweet garden lulled

our dull minds. When he woke us

we felt his sorrow that his friends should so

abandon him. So when the rabble came

I ached to make amends. I heard him say,

‘Do you betray the Son of Man with kisses?’

and whisper, ‘Well done, Judas’ in his ear.

I knew then that my brother had been given

a task I could not execute. Yes, I was good with words

when called to answer, ‘Who do you say I am?’

and good with actions as I drew my sword

and severed a man’s ear, but when it came

to doing what he wished, my master chose

another, knowing I was just a fool

and would have baulked at seeming to pervert

his will. He got that right. The books

told half the truth; how I disowned my master

from naked fear, and how he still forgave me.

But Judas was himself betrayed. They said

he hanged himself, but how could that be true?

Who saw him? John alone was there

of all of us when Jesus walked away

and Luke and Mark were not among our band.

History needs a villain, and Judas was the man.

Was Matthew in the temple when he flung

the silver in disgust upon the floor?

I know not, but it haunts me. He was chosen

and he did the master’s will. That he should

despair and take his life appears quite senseless

but no-one seems to want to know the truth

and I am burdened with his betrayal, too.

First published in ‘Reach’








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