“When he fails you,” said his father, “don’t be surprised.”
“He’s different, father.”
“He is one man against Rome. You yourself know what happens to people who talk of such things.”
“He’s speaking tomorrow, outside of town. You should come.”
His father shook his head. “I know what he will say. I know the oaths he’ll swear. He’ll prophesy freedom from Rome, and vengeance against Caesar. He’ll speak of blood, because blood is all he knows.”
“Father, he — ”
His father grabbed Judas by the face with both hands and pulled him close to his. “Son, listen! This Nazarene — he is a liar. Blood is all he knows. He is no Messiah. He is not your Savior.”
Judas, by instinct — from affection — kissed his father.
His father growled and pushed Judas away from him. Judas tumbled back and fell.
“That was three years ago,” thought Judas. “Three years,” he thought, as he pulled a coin from his purse and felt its weight in the center of his palm.
+ TWO +
Judas bowed and angled the basket toward a family.
“Where did this come from?”
“The food is for you and your family. If you are hungry, eat.”
The father looked up at Judas. “How do you have enough food for everyone?”
Judas remained silent. He looked out at the hillside, then back to the man. “Are you hungry?”
“Is your family hungry?”
The man looked at his wife and children. He looked back at Judas and nodded.
“Everyone will be fed. How they are to be fed is no concern of yours. Now, take and eat.”
The man’s eyes fell to the fish and bread. He glanced over at his wife and child and motioned for them to take from the basket as well. Judas took note of their hands. He took note of their fingers. As they took their first bites, he took note of their eyes and mouths and teeth.
As Judas turned from them, the child, a boy, spoke. “Is he telling the truth?”
Judas turned to the boy. He saw bread crumbs at the corners of the boy’s lips.
Judas paused. “Did you hear anything he said!? What manner of kingdom do you think the poor will inherit?! The meek and the timid lack the will to desire anything. They are poor because they are weak. They will inherit nothing. You are hungry, and I give you fish and bread. But he — he speaks of righteousness, speaks of seeing God — overthrowing Rome through peace!? How does one topple a kingdom without bloodshed?!
The deaf hear. The lame walk. The blind see. I have seen miracles, boy. Today, we are fed. Today, you say “thank you.” But we sit at the feet of a fool. Tomorrow we die.
By instinct — from affection — he turned and answered. “Yes, Rabbi.”
The Nazarene smiled. He looked down at Judas’ basket, and tore off a small piece of the bread. “Are you alright, Judas?”
Judas smiled. “Yes, Rabbi.”
“Child,” He said. “You’re trembling.”
Judas laughed in disbelief, but he cut his laughter short. Because, in fact, the Teacher was right. He was trembling. He couldn’t hold the basket still, try as he might. He stared at his shaking hands. “I — I don’t know what’s happening.”
He placed a hand on the basket, and stilled the tremors. “It’s alright. It’s alright.” He looked over at the boy. “Have you been fed?”
The boy looked up at Him, and then back at the bread. “Thank you for the bread.”
He smiled at the boy, then to Judas. “Are you well? Are you with me, Judas?”
Judas looked at the Rabbi. “Yes. Yes, I am with you.”
He smiled, and kissed Judas. “Peace, Judas. There’re more to be fed.” And he left them.
A tear crested and struck the corner of Judas’ lips. He tasted its salt.
He inhaled, exhaled and thought of the Rabbi.
Judas looked back at the boy, but said nothing.
+ THREE +
Judas looked down and he saw his feet, swinging far above the ground.
Judas looked down and he saw the Rabbi, kneeling, washing his feet.
Judas looked down and saw the young boy, looking back at him.
Judas remembered kissing the Rabbi.
Judas remembered the bread.
Judas remembered the salt of his tear.
“Father,” he said.