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I, JUDAS (Part 2)

a bag of 30 pieces of silver for turning over the Messiah to the Romans - a symbol of betrayal
“How much would you pay for the Rabbi?” (A fictional short story on the events of Holy Week, from Judas' perspective.)

Read “I, JUDAS (Part 1)” >>

The Rabbi’s ministry trip continued for two long weeks after he pledged to visit Jonathan. But when we reached my village, the Rabbi’s first stop was my (borrowed) house. The kids raced to meet us, and I gathered them into a hug. Then they went to the Rabbi. He threw Miriam into the air and caught her. He whirled Reuben and his brothers in a circle, almost pulling them off their feet. He pulled me in to join them all in an impromptu game of tag.

Behind the other children came Jonathan, without a crutch but hobbling on his mother’s arm with freshly bloodied knees. I broke away to bear-hug them both.

“I missed you, Dad,” Jonathan said.

“I’m so glad you brought the Rabbi,” Salome smiled.

The Rabbi broke away from the game of tag. “Jonathan,” he said, “I came to see everybody—but especially you. Why don’t we sit by the fire pit?”

The fire pit was where the grownups talked in the evenings, usually after the kids were in bed. “I wanna come to the fire pit!” Miriam said.

Salome shushed her and herded the children inside. But before she went, she looked at me with hopeful eyes. Did you ask him? she mouthed.

I nodded. She closed her eyes momentarily and her lips moved in praise.

Jonathan leaned on the Rabbi as we walked to the back. I wished the whole family could see Jonathan get his foot back, but clearly, the Rabbi wanted this to be a solemn moment. I stood behind my boy as he sat across from the Rabbi.

“Jonathan,” he began, “I need to ask you some questions, all right? Hard questions. But you’re almost a man.”

Jonathan nodded.

“There are many important things I do. For one thing, I heal people’s bodies. Your daddy has seen me do it, and I always make people well when it serves my Father’s purpose. For another thing, I tell the truth about God. I point to him and the plans he set in motion before time. Which do you think is more important?”

“God,” he said immediately.


“’Cause he’s our shepherd, and . . . stuff. He makes us different. You said these questions were hard!”

“Well, here’s a tougher one,” said the Rabbi, looking hard at the boy. “You agreed the biggest reason I’m here is to do to my Father’s work . . . and part of that work is to call my sheep. Who do you think would want to follow God more? A wolf who gets everything he wants when he wants it, or a sheep who must trust for all things?”

This was not what I expected. I looked at the Rabbi and saw pain in his eyes—pain for Jonathan?

I looked at my boy and saw a hundred thoughts pass behind his eyes. As I waited for his answer, I realized I was holding my breath.

“I don’t need a new foot,” he finally said, gazing into the Rabbi’s eyes. “I want to be a sheep.” The Rabbi extended his arms, and Jonathan stumbled over to bury himself in the embrace.

This was not what was supposed to happen. I wondered how a lame future beggar could glorify God like a blind man dancing and singing in Chorazin. I wondered why my boy couldn’t take the lessons he learned from a wounded foot and keep them while he walked again. I wondered how the Rabbi could expect a nine-year-old to make a decision that would involve a lifetime of bloodied knees and penury . . .

Then I wondered other things I couldn’t say in front of my boy.

I quickly took Jonathan’s hand and led him into the house, explaining to the Rabbi that his mother needed him. I had been betrayed again.

The next day, I took a little money from the common fund that the Rabbi and his followers shared on our travels—only so I could take my boy to a doctor. When I realized I couldn’t take more without detection and I knew my shriveled business couldn’t provide what I needed, I found a moneylender. He drove a harsh bargain, but I had no choice.

The Rabbi might have a purpose in leaving my son a cripple, but I didn’t care. I took Jonathan to every physician I could find.

Salome was not pleased. “Jonathan won’t tell you,” she said, “but he doesn’t want to see these doctors. He told the Rabbi—”

“Jonathan doesn’t know what it means to be a beggar,” I snapped. “Mind the house and leave it to me.”

I could tell Salome wanted to say more, but she didn’t. When the Rabbi announced his next ministry trip, I stayed home.


The image plagued me: the Rabbi, bedraggled and beaten, a sacrificial sheep in the high priest’s hall. I roamed the streets blindly after fleeing the mansion, a homeless, sleepless man with one unceasing thought: Do I owe the Rabbi something?

I’d been following a fraud messiah, a pretender the priests thought deserved to die. Perhaps I was serving God by turning him in. Or perhaps . . . I betrayed a friend. A prophet. I turned traitor when he did nothing but deliver hope and work miracles.

I looked up from a blind wandering reverie to see I’d emerged into the temple square. I don’t know why I landed there. I don’t why I approached one of the gates and paced nervously. I don’t know why I pounded on the entrance at 5:00 in the morning.

I don’t know . . . except that I desperately needed expiation for my sin and couldn’t admit it was impossible.

I pounded again, then again and again. Finally, two guards in temple regalia cracked the gate and glared at me in torchlight.

“Well?” one of them said.

I suddenly realized I didn’t know what to say. I stared back in silence.

“Let’s put him in a cell till morning,” said the guard to his partner.

I finally found my voice. “I need . . . a sacrifice. That’s why . . . are there priests in the night guard?”

The men looked at each other and moved to close the gate.

“I have money!” I shouted through the crack. “I have . . .” I produced my pouch of 30 silver coins. “Bring a priest . . . I gave you the Rabbi! You have to help me.”

The guard turned to his colleague. “He’s drunk.”

As they began to swing the gate closed, I heard another voice: “Who’s out there?” The new man wore priestly robes. I stepped into the gap of the gate before they could shut me out.

“Sir, I need a sacrifice! I’ll pay.”

“He’s drunk,” the guard explained. “Says he ‘gave us the Rabbi,’ whatever that means—”

“The Rabbi!” I tried to explain. “The one who rode the donkey. People waved palm branches—”

“The false messiah?” the priest scoffed. “You’re one of his?”

“No, I . . . I need a sacrifice!”

“Well, a sacrifice would’ve been simpler last week,” the priest said with a humorless smile. “You could’ve gone to the temple market and bought an animal. But on Monday—”

“I told him he shouldn’t—”

“—Your messiah flipped the tables. Half our vendors won’t come back, and you want—”

“You can’t . . . I gave you the Rabbi! You owe me!”

“Told you he’s drunk,” the guard said.

I realized the Rabbi’s arrest happened only a few hours ago; they probably didn’t know. But I couldn’t let it go. “I . . . need a sacrifice. For selling a friend. What can I do?”

“Ask your Rabbi,” the priest smirked.

“I can’t!” I shouted. “Help me!”

The priest nodded to the guards. They moved again to shut the gate.

“Just—answer me,” I said desperately. “Is it criminal to claim you’re Messiah? There were miracles; maybe he was a prophet—”

“Yes, it’s a sin. ‘You shall not give false testimony.’”

“But then suppose you . . . you’re his friend, and you . . . and they’ll kill him. Is it a sin to betray a prophet?”

The priest nodded again to the guards, but I stood my ground.

“Have I sinned?” I wailed.

“Yes,” snarled the priest, finally losing his temper. “If you’ve somehow killed a prophet . . . think of betraying Isaiah and murdering Jeremiah. You should die for your iniquity. Is that what you wanted to know?”

“But if he’s false . . . can he be a prophet?”

The guards began to swing the gate closed and I jumped out of the way. Before it shut, I flung my bag of blood money through the gap. Thirty silver coins skittered across the stones.

I’ve betrayed innocent blood!” I shouted. I stumbled back into the darkness.


Simon and I were walking behind the others on the road, and I wished he would shut up. We were almost home from the Rabbi’s latest ministry trip. I guess Simon’s lecture was what I deserved for admitting that I went to a moneylender, but I had to tell somebody. I’d fallen so far behind on payments that the guy was alternately threatening me with debtor’s prison and injuring my family.

“So my ox dies,” Simon said, “and I’m panicked. Like—like I can’t breathe. Like my heart’s gonna explode. How am I supposed to buy an animal when I didn’t plant all my fields last year? Remember, the Rabbi had us in Capernaum—”

“I can’t forget,” I retorted. “I lost more business . . .”

“No ox, no planting,” he continued. “No planting, no food. I didn’t want to go to the Rabbi, but—”

“Don’t bother,” I muttered. “He saves his miracles for strangers.”

“Well, I asked the Rabbi. He says, ‘Let’s talk to my Father.’ So we pray, and . . . no ox.”

I saw that one coming.

“But somehow . . . it’s a little better, right? No reason, just . . . better. For a day or two. But then I realize I’m out of time to plant and about to panic all over again. That’s when Josiah comes over—”


“My neighbor. The one who hates me? The one who killed my chickens when they wandered into his field?”

“So . . . he came to rub it in?”

“No! Judas, he says—you won’t believe this—he says, ‘I finished plowing early. Wanna borrow my ox?’”

I rolled my eyes. Just what I needed: Simon had become a mini-Rabbi.

“So ‘don’t worry about tomorrow,’ Simon concluded, “because—”

“—Because my moneylender has a spare ox?”

“It’s about faith. Have a little.”

“In the Rabbi? Tried that.”

“Faith in miracles? Or in him?”

“How can I trust him when . . . when he’s not the Messiah?” I blurted.

There it was—the thing I hadn’t said in three years; the thing I’d worked to shovel into my subconscious; the thing that betrayed everything I thought I knew. I waited for Simon to denounce me and lightning to strike.

Instead, he stopped and stared. “Who says he’s not the Messiah?”

“You’ve heard him! He doesn’t sound like a king, more like . . . a wannabe martyr.”

“He could still be king.”

I dismissed the idea with a head shake. “Last week he’s preaching, right? But not the ‘blessed are the meek’ stuff like he used to. No, he tells Pharisees they’re painted graves bound for hell. And he’s going to Jerusalem for Passover again, their home turf. Think they won’t arrest him?”

“But do you remember what else he said? When the Pharisees asked for a ‘miraculous sign?’”

I shrugged. I wasn’t paying much attention by then.

“They want proof he’s the Messiah, right? He says, ‘all you get is the Sign of Jonah.’”

“Okay . . . Jonah preached ‘repent.’ The Rabbi preaches ‘repent.’ So?”

“What else did Jonah do? After three days in a fish belly?”

I still didn’t get it.

“‘The Sign of Jonah,’ Judas! Figure it out.”

“So the Rabbi’s gonna get swallowed and spit up?”

Simon fixed me with a penetrating stare. “Do you believe in the resurrection?”

He caught up with the others, leaving me to puzzle over his meaning. I quickly gave it up and went back to pondering crooked moneylenders. If I had any way to get the cash . . .

As I walked, a thought leaped to mind—a fully-formed idea, as though someone planted it in my brain. It was simple yet terrifying:

What if I forced the Rabbi to put up or shut up?

The Pharisees undoubtedly wanted to arrest him. But even in Jerusalem, they wouldn’t do it in broad daylight and risk a riot; he had the popular touch. Maybe . . . well, maybe they’d pay to know where he went in the dark. It wouldn’t fix the whole moneylender problem, but it would be a start.

It would also resolve my doubts. If he was the Messiah, the Rabbi would free himself in power. He’d have no choice but to reveal himself as king. But if he was a fraud . . .

Well, he’d get his death wish. The Pharisees would ensure that martyrdom was his.

I quickly shook off the thought and caught up with the others. I wouldn’t do it, of course. What kind of slime would betray a friend? But it would solve two problems at once. Money and Messiah . . .

How much would you pay for the Rabbi? I would ask.

When we reached my village, I left the others with a wave and shouted farewells. I spotted Miriam at the well. Salome had decided she was old enough to carry water. Besides, the kids helping with chores was dampening her aunt’s comments that it was time for us to move out.

I snuck up behind my girl: “Daddy’s home!”

Miriam turned a dirt- and tear-streaked face. “Daddy! Why didn’t you come?”

“I was with the Rabbi, honey. Why—?”

“Mommy sent Reuben to find you!”

“I never saw . . . what happened? What’s wrong?”

“Jonathan! He’s . . . he’s really sick!”

I swung Miriam into my arms, abandoning the water jar and sprinting for the house.

I found Salome keeping vigil beside Jonathan’s kitchen pallet. Our son looked pained even in sleep: a fixed painful grimace, body shaking with chills as he dripped fever sweat. I saw telltale rusty stains on the blanket. He’d been coughing blood.

Salome didn’t stand when I entered. I had to run to her for a hug.

“Where were you?” she accused.

“With the Rabbi! Miriam said you sent Reuben, but he never—”

“Jonathan’s been this way all week. He’s getting . . . he sleeps all day, and when he wakes up he’s delirious, and then he coughs—”

“What about the doctor?”

“The doctor said . . . a few more hours.” She muffled a sob with her hand.

I walked toward the door. “I just left the Rabbi. I’ll go see—”

“There’s no time. Stay with Jonathan; I need to check on the other boys.”

Salome went out to the street with Miriam clinging to her. I sat beside my son and futilely took his hand.

Time ceased. A moment or an hour later, another chill wracked Jonathan’s body. I watched fever dreams pass over his face: a pout and whimper with a nightmare, then an incongruous laugh and smile.

The laugh seemed to startle him awake. His eyes slowly squinched in the light and he saw me. “Daddy,” he whispered.

I tried to smile. Instead, I sobbed.

“Don’t cry, Daddy,” he said.

He coughed long and hard. I held his body as he added a red spatter to the blanket.

The boy finally lay back, exhausted. I thought he drifted to sleep, but he spoke with a faint smile. “I was dreaming . . . the Rabbi.”

I bit back my thoughts about the man and clung to Jonathan’s hand.

“I was a sheep. In the dream. Baa, baa. Sheep . . . baa, baa.” He laughed. It set off another round of coughing. Another chill, then he was still. He still breathed. Once I was sure he was sleeping, I spoke my bitter thoughts aloud.

“Is this your reward? For being his sheep?”

Jonathan opened his eyes wide, just for a moment. “Oh, yes, Daddy,” he said, and smiled broadly. “My reward . . .”

His eyes closed again. Like Salome said, he was delirious.

She returned and pushed me aside to keep vigil with our son. I went in the corner of the kitchen, sat on bare stones and stared into the dark hearth. Jonathan’s breathing finally, mercifully ceased before the hour was gone. He hadn’t woken or said another word.

Salome asked if we should send word to the Rabbi. I shook my head. Oh, he seemed to love Jonathan . . . but never enough.

A few days later Salome asked if I would sort through Jonathan’s possessions; she just couldn’t face it. So one night by hearth-light, I was the one who found the hand-sewn lamb in his treasure bag. I held it for only a moment, considering what to do. Then I abruptly tossed it into the fire.

Seeing the lamb led me to a decision. If the Rabbi announced a trip to Jerusalem for the Passover, I was going—and bringing the family. I’d been away from them too much. Yes, it would cost money. But it would get everyone out of reach of the moneylender for a while.

What would happen while we were there? Well . . . we would see. But the unthinkable betrayal of a friend? That was now . . . thinkable.

How much would you pay for the Rabbi? I would ask.


There’s no light in the sky, but birdsong is finally announcing the dawn. I’ve slept maybe one hour in the past 24. I desperately need rest, but that will come. After speaking to the priest at the temple, I know what I must do.

The first thing is to find a rope. I spot a short length tossed outside a stable where torchlight flares in the street. It’s not long, but it will serve.

I shuffle slowly toward the Tekoa Gate and the dump outside it, the one with the trees nearby. It’s the proper place to dispose of things.

I fear falling asleep on my feet and force myself to break into a trot. I also force myself to banish the self-delusions: I said turning traitor was about money, but that was a lie. There are other ways to pay moneylenders. I told myself this was about forcing the Messiah to reveal himself, and that was partly true. I despise the Rabbi for failing the test.

But mostly, this has always been about a failed business, a burned-out house . . . and a son. The Rabbi’s unpardonable sins drove me to settle the score with a kiss.

Light summits the horizon as I reach the trees and smell the dump. On the perimeter is a half-dead scraggly fig above a depression in the earth.

This will be the place. I loop one end of the rope over a branch. I tie the other end clumsily where it needs to be.

Salome lingers in my mind. With four surviving children . . . life is hard for widows. But the boys and Miriam will do better without a traitor in the family. Salome’s family will support them better than I have for three wasted years. I try to focus my thoughts on them—Salome, Reuben, Miriam, Jonathan . . .

But the Rabbi . . . the Rabbi.

He demanded faith, but who would trust a suicidal martyr? Didn’t all 11 of the others run like whimpering dogs when I arrived at Gethsemane with the temple guard? Didn’t Peter, the faithful blockhead, abandon him in the high priest’s courtyard? I wonder if any of them will return before the priests execute the Rabbi.

No. No, faith is for boys like Jonathan who don’t know better. It’s beautiful and it’s worthless.

“So is this your reward?” I asked my son. “For being his sheep?”

“Oh, yes, Daddy,” he replied. “My reward . . .”

Has Jonathan gone to a reward? Has he gone to nothing, descending to the belly of the fish like Jonah? No one has spit my boy onto dry land. “My time has not yet come,” the Rabbi would say. As I think of him, his bedraggled bloody body fills my inner eye.

Desolate dawn flares on the horizon. My time has now come.

In the distance, a lone shepherd’s fire, burning brighter than the oncoming day, catches my eye. But as the sky morphs from charcoal to slate, the flames extinguish. I take that as a cue, tightening the noose.

Then I leap into nothing.


Editor’s note: You may have finished reading this and are thinking: Wow. I never would do what Judas did. He didn’t wait for the end of the story! Didn’t he know that Jesus was about to die for the sins of the world and rise again on the third day? How could Judas resort to betrayal of the One he called “Rabbi”? Or you’re thinking: Poor Judas. He was only trying to help his son. Why didn’t Jesus see that? And why didn’t Jesus force Judas to wait? To trust Him?

The fact is, any of us could be Judas in this story. Any time we decide that our way is better than God’s; any time we think we know how something should turn out; any time we try to manipulate or control a situation, we’re showing the same unbelief that Judas showed — and the book of Hebrews calls unbelief evil, pure and simple.

Our sin put Jesus on the cross; there’s no way to change that part of the story. The good news is, we have a chance at a better ending than Judas. This story doesn’t end at Judas’ death, because this story isn’t about Judas. This story is about Jesus, a triumphant King who through His own death and resurrection defeated sin and death, providing access to the Father and an eternity of unbroken relationship with Him. With that, this is a story of hope.

Beware of being a Judas. If you’d rather live out of a hope-saturated heart than a hardened one, we’d love to start you on your journey. Maybe you’d like to reach out to one of our licensed professional Christian counselors. They can provide a complimentary consultation to point you in the direction of resources, answers, and ongoing care for your faith journey. We also invite you to read “Coming Home: An Invitation to Join God’s Family.” This is a detailed, easy-to-understand explanation of what it means to put your faith in Christ and trust His saving work on your behalf.

Finally, if you’d like to share your story or have additional questions about Jesus, the Bible or the Christian faith, please write to us at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you. You are already in our prayers!

Copyright 2024 George Halitzka. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

George Halitzka
George Halitzka

George Halitzka is a writer, storyteller and theatre artist based in Louisville, Kentucky. He’s the founder and artistic director of Drama by George, an educational theatre company. George loves God, his wife Julie, performing onstage, and eating peanut butter (not necessarily in that order).


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