Betrayal at Gethsemane

He’s shaking me urgently—“Still sleeping, Ang?”

I rub my eyes and fight for consciousness. It must be going on midnight.

“Get up,” he says, moving on down to Andrew and then James. “There’ll be time to sleep later. My betrayer arrives.”

One by one, we rise and stand yawning in the dark, moonlit grove. What is he talking about? Is this another one of his cryptic prophesies?

Gradually, I make out the rustling outlines of the olive trees. What’s that light coming up along the path from the west? This garden is usually such a quiet, tranquil place—I think that’s one of the reasons he’s always been so fond of it. Now an assembly approaches, disrupting the stillness we’ve all come to treasure.

Something about the way the torchlight dances on the metal gives them away—soldiers. I knew if we came back to Jerusalem there would be trouble. We all warned him before he raised Lazarus, and it’s only gotten worse with time.

My first instinct is to disappear back into the shadowy protection of the trees, hoping they haven’t seen us yet, but Jesus is already walking out to meet them.

A familiar figure emerges at the head of the company. It’s Judas—if he’s come to warn us, he’s too late. Why is he turning to speak to the crowd? Now I recognize the faces of pharisees mixed in with the soldiers. As Judas turns towards us again, I see it—I see it in all its sickening clarity: he’s with the crowd. He’s leading them. He’s the one Jesus warned about at supper.

“Greetings, Rabbi,” he says, and he smiles before the kiss.

The crowd stops, their torches illuminating the two players before us—Jesus and JudasWe stare at the pair of them, momentarily forgetting everyone else. Judas drops his eyes first.

“Friend,” Jesus calls him—I would have called him something else—and he whispers something quietly to Judas. Then he turns to the soldiers.

“Who are you looking for?” he asks them.

“Jesus of Nazareth.”

“I am he.” His voice is steady and strong. And as he says it, the crowd collectively falls back as if expecting to be fried by a sudden bolt of lightening.

Jesus looks at Judas, then at me—I feel reassured by his confidence. Now, he looks back at the crowd. “Who are you looking for?”

“Jesus of Nazareth.”

“I am he.” He holds up his hands as if in surrender.

Still uncertain, they stand there—so still I can’t tell if they’re breathing. I begin to wonder if this is the miracle—if they’re rooted to the ground unable to move. He calmed the sea once, why not the soldiers?

“I tell you, I am Jesus,” he says to them, “so let these men go.” He gestures to us.

A few of the soldiers take hesitating steps towards him. Reassured by the absent celestial fire, they move in quickly to make the arrest.

“So this is why he told us to buy swords,” Peter mumbles, and before we know it Peter has decided to make martyrs of us all—drawing his dagger he slashes wildly at the nearest figure, neatly slicing off an ear. I’m not sure which is louder—the victim’s scream or the hiss of a dozen swords being yanked from their sheaths in the same moment.

“No more, no more,” Jesus is calling—and strangely, they all obey him—Peter and the soldiers.

Jesus walks freely through the crowd to the man who’s been wounded and he puts his hand over the bloody gash. The man breathes sharply, but when Jesus pulls his hand away, his ear reappears. The crowd watches transfixed as the man reaches up to follow the curve of his ear down to its lobe.

Jesus turns to face them, “Have you come out against a robber with swords and clubs?” He seems to be speaking to the pharisees more than the soldiers. “When I was with you day after day in the temple, you didn’t lay hands on me. But this—this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

This only makes them angry. Goaded by the pharisees, a group of soldiers close in around Jesus. The rest turn towards us and I run—I run as fast as I can, darting through the trees while the unforgiving brush claws at my ankles—but I keep running down the hill—looking back over my shoulder compulsively even though no one seems to be following. And even after I’ve passed through the gate into the city, I keep running.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Jesus always gets away. I remember when they tried to kill him back in Nazareth and he just slipped out of the crowd unnoticed. He could have made himself invisible tonight. Or he could have called down fire from heaven. Or commanded them to turn around and leave the same way he commands the demons. He could have stopped them and they knew it.

Why didn’t he?

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