Chapter Four can be found here.
A vast crowd sat in silence. Apart from the words of the rabbi, the only sounds to be heard were the distant twittering of birds and the occasional grunt as someone shifted position on the warm grass.
“There,” said Simon, poking Judas in the ribs. “The man with gray hair.”
Judas glanced at the stranger. “That fossil? You are joking, Simon.”
Simon nudged Judas again. “I am sure. He has aged, but I could never forget those eyes. He looks like a man who has gazed upon all the sorrows of the world.”
Judas watched the stranger for a minute before tugging on Simon’s sleeve. “You are mistaken, Simon. You may pretend to be a zealot, but you cannot pretend that frail old man is Jehu. I grew up hearing stories of an invisible assassin before whom Romans fell like wheat before the scythe. He is not that man.”
The stranger knelt in the grass, his head bowed, listening with half-closed eyes as the rabbi spoke of God’s mysteries. Once the old man glanced toward Judas.
“Is he drunk?” whispered Judas. “There is no life in his eyes.”
Simon stifled a chuckle. “What did you expect? Jehu has killed more men than any Roman legion has ever done. For more than thirty years, Rome has sought him in vain.”
The rabbi lifted up his voice. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.”
Judas watched the stranger, overcome by morbid curiosity, wondering how he respond to such mild, peaceful words. The stranger neither moved nor spoke.
Time passed. As listeners came and went, the stranger knelt like a weathered statue, listening. The sun moved slowly overhead.
Beads of sweat ran down Judas’s face. “Is he almost done?” he muttered, glaring at the rabbi. “We are all hungry. He often speaks of spiritual bread, but he never seems to remember that we also need the worldly kind. My body is about to perish of hunger and leave my spirit homeless.”
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” said the rabbi.
“That sounds good,” grumbled Judas.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
“What about our bodies?” whispered Judas. “Will we find rest for them?”
“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
At that moment, Simon gave Judas such a jab in the side that he gasped in pain.
“Simon,” hissed Judas. “You may think you are a zealot, but I refuse to be your target practice.”
“Look at Jehu!” said Simon.
Judas looked. There, kneeling alone in the grass, the most vicious criminal in Judea, the man at whose name Romans cursed and Jews turned pale, wept openly.
Chapter Six can be found here.
I am reminded once again that grumpy, snarky characters are much more fun to write than solemn, serious ones. Judas may be kind of a jerk, but I think anyone who has sat through a really long sermon at church can sympathize with his impatience.
Jesus had twelve close disciples, and they were quite an odd bunch. Simon the Zealot presumably hated Rome. Matthew, also called Levi, was a tax collector who probably worked for the Roman authorities. The Gospels tell us the disciples of Jesus sometimes bickered, and I can believe it!
Peter was originally the star of this particular chapter. When he turned out to be such a complainer, I decided Judas Iscariot was a much better fit. After all, disillusionment with the long-awaited Jewish Messiah may have been Judas Iscariot’s motive for betraying Jesus to be executed.
I am enjoying this story, but I have a small technical niggle. Is “fossil” a word that would be used at this time? Would “relic” or some such term be better? Happy New Year!
Relic would definitely be more appropriate; I wish I’d thought of it!