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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Letter of Revised Discontentment

Peter stepped out into the biting, stiff air that morning, his letter home ominous in his pocket. The sun was just peeking over the tin roofs of the other hovels that surrounded his. The smell of rot sweltered up into his nostrils, still numb from the moment he had awoken that morning. No heat. He loathed the fact that he had no heat in his shack to keep himself and his companions warm.
“Frozen fingers weren’t in the brochure,” he thought cynically to himself.

They had only the tattered and aged wool blankets that at one point had been new and acceptable, now a thorn in his side. He once had a pillow but lost it to an infestation of some type of beetle that had been foreign to him until then. The town people called them burrowers. His worn bedspread now doubled as both a blanket and a knob to rest his head. His neck was taut. Rigid. His back still ached from sleeping on the cot, or rather, scarcely sleeping on it.

I abhor this place. I barely sleep. The food is nearly intolerable. I only eat when I must. I fear I am beginning to look as sickly and frightful as those I am caring for.

The door squeaked shut behind him. He tugged, forcing it into the door jam. Leaning down, he tucked the towel back under the door, attempting to keep what little heat there was in the house to wait there for his return. His first step fell on the dirt road. Tire tracks lay petrified in the solid mud from last months storm. He started his one-mile hike into town. Peter thought of his first few months here. He remembered the eagerness of the young pastors he was training and the joy in the eyes of the villagers that he prayed over and provided medicinal support to. He felt God in him then. He had known peace. It seemed only the sting of death could embitter that. Unfortunately he now resided in a living graveyard, the dead already assigned their time, just ignorant of it. He gazed around and saw only walking corpses, sapped of all hope and refilled with desperation. Thin. Pale. They hardly had the strength to carry themselves. Their country seemed to care nothing for them. All too quickly Peter’s convictions faded and faith no longer felt sufficient. Each dawning day increasingly appeared worthless and lost to him. His heart ached at times but had become all too desensitized by the horrors he had witnessed in his three years there in the village.

The sick come to me for help. Some crying out in pain, some with no more tears to cry. They look to me as their savior. And I have begun to loathe them for putting me on that pedestal.


He had heard that there were riots, revolution and insurrection running rampant before he decided to come. His heart staggered when he first knew the Lord was calling him to minister to the poor in such a violent and unsure corner of the world. He had often wondered why God couldn’t call him to emulate major champions of faith. A position as executive pastor for a predominate national church would not have been so unpleasant.

Peter kicked a pebble along as he walked. A poignant, distant smile began to creep onto his face, followed shortly by misty tears clotting up in his eyes. His mind drifted to his first day in missionary training. That was when he first met her. She sat two seats over from the chalkboard and only one row up from him. He waited through the short and informal roll call to hear the name she responded to. Rebecca. Nowhere had he ever seen a more beautiful seraph and the name suited her. She looked like a Rebecca. She looked like a girl he could no longer live a normal life without. He wondered which program she was in. His mind, a skipping stone, jumped over waves of thought, from question to question. “Is she going to the same country as me?” “Where is she from?” And of course, “Is she single?” Nowhere in time had someone fallen in love so quickly as Peter did for Rebecca. She, in an instant, was his everything.

Machine gun fire bawled out through his thoughts. His senses returned and now, almost instinctively, he dropped into the mud. Bullets flickered over his head, scattering terror across the hillside beside him. He waited in silent despondency for the ringing of gunfire to conclude. A desperate prayer whispered on His tongue. Simple.

“Please God…” words ceased and the Spirit within him spoke the rest, frantically praying for safekeeping.

Daily there are gunfights. I feel trapped. Like my life will be lost at any moment, with only my small Gideon’s bible and three years of heartache and poverty as my memento. Where was our God then?

His mind digressed to the small, green bible in his pocket, side by side with his letter home. He often mused, in an ironic manner, how of all the locations he could have been called to, he chose one where his devotions could be his demise. He kicked his heart every time he got word of his family back home and their ministry efforts to the poor and illiterate. If only he had stayed…He wondered if he would still carry his faith like a banner instead of the band-aid it was to him now; patching up the occasional scrape but leaving the gaping wound of doubt exposed for this village and its vicious country to prod.

With his nose now buried in a small, solemn patch of crab grass, his thoughts fell to her once more. He remembered how her lips, a soft pink, tasted on his. A sweet taste. A comfortable sensation.

If only you could have seen her. You would have known in an instant why I loved her…still love her. She couldn’t hide anything behind her hazel eyes, but I knew she had nothing to hide. The first time we kissed, I could see her contentment.

His thoughts of her had traveled too deep to notice that the insurrectionists had passed him by, mistaking him for a simple townsman. They saw no need to stop for this lump of cowardice lying in the mud.

He picked himself up, his clothes now heavy in front from the mire, a tugging reminder to him all day of the morning’s events. He took out a small cloth from his breast pocket to wipe the muck from his eyes then pulled it away to replace it in his pocket. Red. Its glaring contrast to the drab gray of the handkerchief is what caught his attention. Again his eyes became doleful. His strength to hold the tears in regressed.

“I too am a man of sorrows.” He muttered to himself. “So why is it I get spat on? Why was she taken?”

His hand melded with hers. Lifeless. The crimson of her blood pouring into his lap from the wound on her back. His denim jeans soaked in her blood. He wore them for three days. No strength to stand. No strength to bat a single eyelid. Peter’s eyes burned through the night. Insomnia is for the rich. He had hollowness to keep him up at night.

He felt like a fraud. She had died for her faith. The faith he had once also. They had tortured her. They had put her to death, and all he could do was struggle with the men who forced him to watch. They marred him far more by allowing him to live. When they loosed their grip on him, Peter plummeted to the soil, now ignorant of the bodily damage he had endured. They were limp together. Lifeless. He crawled to her body, finding her with his palms and fingertips. Salty, warm tears blinded him.

Her blood was warmer than my skin at that moment. Life ripped away from her just moments before. She had only been dead an instant but I suffered as if an eternity without her had just passed all bundled up in that one second. My only reaction was to cocoon her. Cover her lifeless body with my arms. I clasped her to me tighter than I ever had before. I whisked the hair away from her forehead as I had done when she slept in my arms many cold nights before. I pressed my lips to hers, insanely expecting them to kiss me back. They were dormant. I tasted blood. My blood? Her blood? Mixing to be the blood of our covenant… Till death we did part.

The sound of distant battle aroused Peter to the place where he was standing on the road. The mercenaries were still close and might be back soon. He wiped his eyes once more and took one step toward the town. Slowly he made his way down the broken pathway. A gushing sense of loneliness surrounded him as he walked down the side paths toward the village.

While he walked down the erupted paths, the carcasses of dead beasts, half putrefied, reeking of brutal fatality, dotted the fringe of the road. He seized the letter in his pocket, making sure no harm had befallen it during his swim in the mud. Dry. He was unsure of the impact his correspondence might have with his parents. He imagined his mother. She would be sad but supportive. She often wrote to let him know that whenever his missionary work was over he could come home. Frank, Peter’s father missed him as well. Both longed for him to be home, but neither at such a cost. Faith sold upstream. His mom would smile, uneasy, hiding her hurt. Frank would try to veil it for a while. It would take him a week or so to bring it up. And even then would the conversation be so convoluted and awkward that it would only result in an invitation for Peter to attend a church service again. The old man would have a glossy look, his teeth grit shut, tightly holding the tears behind his eyes.

I’m sorry for any hurt that my loss of faith may cause. Dad, you have always been supportive and loving and I feel as if I am letting you down in some way. Like I am walking out on a family tradition. Maybe one day the Lord will call on me again, but until then I have to live in the valley of death. My heart hates it but my soul has made quite a home here.

His foot caught on a rut in the trail. It was just enough to bring him out of his haze. He was almost in town. His stomach turned. Panicky expectation slowed his walk. It was worse than inviting someone on a date for the first time, or anticipating that initial kiss. However, this was his family. His flesh. And he tortured himself at the notion that he in some way was betraying them.

I find myself singing worship at night. Hoping it will help me sleep. I don’t know mom, if it is the nostalgia or the Spirit, but either way it helps. Many times has “My Soul Knows Very Well” lulled me to sleep. But I feel like the words are hollow…

Just a few days over fifteen months ago was the last day he and Rebecca had walked that path. It was on that day that she was ripped from his life. His bride to be. They had been talking of a certain scripture when three patrolling soldiers stopped them. She had this verse memorized. He had recently lost a string of interns to famine, disease, torture and expulsion. His flesh wailed for revenge and revolution. She knew better. Her loving wit could always calm his rage.

She told it to me ten minutes before she died and I committed it to memory to keep the last cheerful moment of my life alive. She told me to calm my soul, my unrest. “To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hand. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the Earth, the refuse of the world.” 1 Corinthians 4:11-13.

He entered the wooded archway that lead to the main sliver of the small village. Everyone knew him by name. The last he had seen of another American was five weeks previous, so by his best count it was Thursday. Neither of his housemates spoke English very well. One was from a small country in eastern Europe that Peter dared not attempt to pronounce and the other was from another small village just thirty miles from this one. An easy walk home in comparison.

On this particular day the agency mailman was supposed to be arriving at 3 o’ clock. Peter detested these days. He only got the occasional letter from home telling him of lavish feasts, running water, and smiling friends. They endorsed his homesickness. Just once he wanted bad news from home, something to draw him back. Just a single funeral to give him a valid excuse to abandon this crypt. Pot roast. Last month was pot roast and a friend’s wedding. The wedding stung.

“…Rebecca…”

His fingers danced over the envelope. His concentration raced. How would his family react? He fiddled with it. It actually felt restless in his hands.

Across the street a little boy played in a muddy puddle. He knelt before it, splashed his hands around, causing ripples to collide and crash into each other, to swallow each other. The bigger consumed the smaller. He thought of what Jesus had said about children. “The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” He smiled. Sanctity. Only a small reassurance. Peter whistled. The little boy looked up from his amusement and saw Peter kneeling across the street. They both smiled. Peter had always wanted children.

What now? Now that she is gone, I will never know the joy you had in fatherhood.

Peter’s eyes glazed over; a glossy distancing from perception. His lips, cracked and blistered, now barren of the earlier smile. Just then a woman entered his view. She whispered something in the little boy’s ear. He abruptly ceased his wallowing, waved to Peter, then, as if she had told him a great secret, took off down the ally toward his family’s home. The woman looked to him. She grinned. Peter’s heart descended deep into his stomach. Her familiar chocolate eyes glimmered.

I knew her. Her name was Maria. It took me seven breaths to recognize her. She had come into the clinic. She was malnourished, abused… downtrodden. Her face was spiritless and her eyes were so empty I could see the back of her skull. She came a few times and seemed to be healing nicely, physically and spiritually. She was intrigued by what the gospels had to say. Then she stopped showing up. It did not surprise me. I wrote her off as a casualty in my mind. Most ended abruptly in this area of the world.

She stood there. Uneasy. Fidgeting nervously. She stepped one foot out toward him, unsure if she should approach. Peter sat in simple wonderment. He must have appeared beautiful to her. Her eyes swelled, red with joy. Her palms shielded her lips, her knuckles white.

The afternoon haze split the reflected light. Peter shielded his eyes. His stomach hurt. She walked to his side. Her lips quaked. Two fingers danced over a small wooden cross she wore around her neck. She dribbled out six small words…”Thank you…you saved my life…” Her steps hurried away, leaving him alone in the solitude of thought. The smell of astonishment and perplexity wafted in through all his pores. His joints hurt. He wept. Salty, clear tears. Purity. Peter’s heart felt tugged at, ripped apart, left asunder but strangely finally felt freed.

I sat there on that dusty bench and stared at the sky; stared at myself. How could I have been so ignorant? How could I have been such a hypocrite? I preached the good news but my heart sat empty. I taught on being filled with the Spirit but my heart had shut Him out long before. But now I saw it, now I knew what part I had been missing. Obedience; Obedience in the face of tribulation. Jesus never once promised a life free of trials. He told us over and over that we would be tested, hated, spat on and put to death. But our treasure awaits us when we join the Father in heaven. Obedience is the key. Rebecca knew that. She died for that. She told me once that if she would die here in this place, then all she would need to know was that God had used her to help one person; just one person. I never understood that. Not until that moment when I sat face to face with Maria did I understand that. Rebecca had helped me… Rebecca died to help me… She helped me save that woman. She had saved me.

A mist of dust trailed near as Peter sat on his bench now clenching the letter, rolling it up tightly in between his finger tips. An old, filthy station wagon stopped in front of where Peter was sitting. The man rolled his window down and waited for the envelope to be passed over to him. Peter beamed. He looked to the clouds and his heart spoke to him. It uttered unknown chants. Peter replaced the letter to his pocket then lifted his hand and simply waived the man on. He had no mail to send out that day.

Peter’s family would receive a letter from him but it was not the one that had been in his pocket while he lay face down in the mud. It would be a new letter. They would receive Peter’s letter but never would again receive Peter in their arms. He would be buried in a small unmarked grave beside Rebecca. Only the villagers would know where it is and who he was. They would remember the couple for years to come and even their grandchildren would know their names.

The Freed Thinker Podcast - Episode 5.2


In this episode of The Freed Thinker Podcast we continue our discussion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument by discussing some of the more common objections to the first premise regarding the Principle of Sufficient Reason and evaluate those objections.

We will now be posting video and audio versions of each episode. Due to limited space on my feed server, this will limit the podcast to about 2 episodes a month.

You can stream the episode here, http://freedthinker.podbean.com/ or search for The Freed Thinker Podcast on itunes and upload it directly from there. 

Click it! Subscribe to it! Love it!







Friday, December 16, 2011

Guest Appearance on The Skeptics Testament Podcast

This week I had a great discussion with atheist Nicholas Bruzzese and host of The Skeptics Testament Podcast for their Christmas episode. We looked at some of the common myths surrounding Christmas and discussed some of the historical details surrounding the Jesus birth narratives. I highly recommend this episode and this podcast in general. It is always at the top of my play list.


You can find this episode and previous episodes by searching for the Skeptics Testament Podcast on Itunes or you can stream them live from their webpage, add comments or ask questions at

http://podcastlaboratory.libsyn.com/

Enjoy!


Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Freed Thinker Podcast - Episode 5.1 - The Kalam Cosmological Argument

In this episode of The Freed Thinker Podcast, we continue our discussion about natural theology by starting to examine the Kalam Cosmological Argument. We cover the history of the argument, the logical form of the argument and then reasons to accept the truth of the first premise. In our next episode we will discuss the various objections to the first premise. Hope you all enjoy the show!

This podcast is available on Itunes at the Itunes store. Just search "The Freed Thinker Podcast" or at the freed at: http://freedthinker.podbean.com/2011/12/10/the-freed-thinker-podcast-episode-51-the-kalam/

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Freed Thinker Podcast Episode 4 - Natural Theology and Contingency

In this episode we begin our look at natural theology and we discuss what natural theology is and then examine the first argument for God's existence - the argument from contingency - and explore several objections raised against it.

As always you view the podcast from my podbean.com page at http://freedthinker.podbean.com/2011/12/05/the-freed-thinker-podcast-episode-4 or you can search for it on Itunes, download it and take it with you on your mobile device.

The Itunes version is an MP4 and so some portable players may not be able to upload it. Just FYI.

Click it! Listen to it! Love it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Freed Thinker Podcast Episode 3 - The New Atheism


In this episode we take a very brief look at the movement known as The New Atheism. This discussion will be admittedly brief and will focus on the key players and some of the unifying themes that bind them together. For those of you who are familiar with this movement and the literature associated with it, you will undoubtedly realize that this discussion is going to be very brief and somewhat shallow. This is intentional. I did not want this episode to be hours in length and I plan on dealing with the specific arguments and objections that these writers pose throughout this entire series so I will be getting back to most of what I either briefly touched on or did not get to in this current episode. So stay tuned!


http://freedthinker.podbean.com/2011/11/22/the-freed-thinker-podcast-episode-3/

You can also download it on Itunes at The Freed Thinker Podcast! Click it! Subscribe it! Love it!



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Suggestions on research articles?

Well I am knee deep in my research for my next few Podcast episodes dealing with the Theistic arguments for God. I have a lot of books and articles dealing with some of the arguments (such as the cosmological argument, teleological arguments or the ontological arguments) but I dont have a lot on some of them (such as AREs, argument from Desire, argument from the conscious). If any of your have any documents or articles that you think would be helpful in my examination of these arguments (from all sides of the issue) I would greatly appreciate it. If you could message me here or email me at tylervela@gmail.com with a .doc or .pdf file or a link to where they can be found that would be excellent. So you can know what exactly I would discussing, I will be examining the validity of the following arguments:

1. The Kalam Cosmological Argument


2. The Argument from Contingency
3. The Teleological Argument from Design (Strong version)
4. The Teleological Argument from Design Inference (Weak version from Fine-Tuning and Information Theory)
5. The Ontological Argument - Anselm
6. The Ontological Argument - Leibniz
7. The Ontological Argument - Godel
8. The Victorious Ontological Argument - Plantinga
9. The Transcendental Argument - From Laws of Logic
10. The Transcendental Argument- From the Existence of Minds (including the argument from consciousness)
11. The Transcendental Argument - From Natural Laws
12. The Transcendental Argument- From Moral Facts (I know many people treat the Moral Argument as its own kind of argument but I will attempt to show why I believe it is actually a version of a transcendental argument.
13. Arguments from Religious Experience
14. Arguments from History - The Resurrection (Minimal Facts Argument)
15. The Argument from Desire
16. The Argument from The Conscious (not consciousness)
17. The Argument from Fulfilled Prophecy
18. Pascal's Wager

Thanks for your help!




Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Atheism Resources

For some reason blogspot doesnt allow bloggers to upload documents or zip files but my podcast thread does. I have compiled a collection of articles and essays interacting with the New Atheism and am now passing the wealth on to you! I hope you enjoy this intellectual treasure trove!

http://freedthinker.podbean.com/2011/11/03/new-atheism-resources/

The Potter's Field, A Short Story


Here is a short story that I wrote based on the Gospel narratives about the night of the Last Supper.

The Potter’s Field

The twelve reclined on the cushions around the small stilted table in the upstairs room on that balmy night. The cloth covering the open window let in a faint breeze. It drifted through the still air, collapsing on and cooling their tepid skin. The sun was just falling behind the horizon line, casting a strawberry glow on the world that panned out below it. Hymns could be heard ringing out in the thin alleyways that made up the city streets; they bounced back and forth off the stone walls, intermixing and sporadically harmonizing, fading in and out of existence.
It was Passover and they had gathered as a whole group to eat together. The entire city was packed for the celebration. There was not an open room in the city and latecomers had to find lodging in the surrounding villages. The room they sat in was nearly silent. The outside noise knitted a quiet milieu to the uncertainty about the future that was on all their minds. There was a small water basin and a soaking cloth sitting just a few feet from the table that had been used to wash the feet of the twelve, even the one who would betray. They briefly talked here and there among themselves of the past few weeks. The room smelt thick of perfume and oil.
The occasional cup being set on the table or the sound of someone sipping a drink were all that was heard. Intermittently a cough or a few words spoken in hushed tones to one another would chime out. Some ate more than others. Peter and John both quietly teased their food. They had no appetite that night. They knew something was wrong. They felt the apprehension that boiled in the room. They all did. John crumbled the unleavened bread between his fingers while Peter swished the wine around in his cup. Judas sat at the seat of honor. His feet, although washed, still felt grimy. He scratched at them. Judas looked around at the others. His shoulders slouched from the weight of the day and the stress of the impending decision. He wondered what made the rest so obedient. He wondered how they could love the teacher so much. He felt exiled. Alienated.
Finally their teacher spoke. He started quietly as he rose to his feet.
                “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” His voice broke a little toward the end.
Judas noticed the hesitation. It was the “suffer” that stuck with him. It stung. How could one single word foretell so much? He forced himself to deposit it away in memory, to ignore it for now. Nothing could be changed. It was already done. Everything was already neatly arranged. His thirty silver coins lay buried under a small shrub just outside of town. He only needed Jesus to slip up; to make one mistake, to tell one lie, to commit even the smallest sin. Then he would have him. Judas had begun to lose hope that it would ever happen. He felt the heavy burden of betraying an innocent man.
Judas thought back to the three years he had spent with Jesus. The things he had seen. The words Jesus spoke that he could never understand. “Why was this man such a fool? If he is the messiah why doesn’t he take over like he is destined to?” Judas was expecting his messiah to be something other than what Jesus was willing to be. “Is this man really the savior of Israel?”
“For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Jesus’ palms were sweaty from the heat. He spoke slowly, the strong tone returning once again to his words. “You do not realize what I am doing but later you will understand. Unless I wash you, you have no part with me. A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean.” Jesus gazed around the room. His eyes skipped over Judas. He did not bring himself to look into those eyes just yet. “And you are clean, though not every one of you. You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘Lord’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” He walked around them. Gently touching their shoulders. Showing his adoration and love. His eyes gleamed. Judas felt the weight of Jesus’ hand on his shoulder when it was his turn in the circle. It seemed as if it stayed on his longer than any of the other eleven. Jesus paused behind him and placed one hand on each of Judas’ shoulders. They were warm. Even on this hot night, they still felt warmer than all else in the room.
The cloth in the window veiled the small tinge of light left from the setting sun. They ate by the glow of the few lanterns hanging from the rafters of the room. A handful of small candles littered the table. Incense smoke spiraled up to the ceiling in thick swirls of gray odor.
Jesus seemed unsettled. “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” His words sliced the air, pulsating in their ears. Each syllable resonated with shrill displeasure but were free of hate. They almost seem to pity and grieve. They pressed on the hearts of all who heard. The breeze that had bathed them was now of no importance. They felt no heat, nor any cold. Their toes were numb while their chests burned. In their hearts they wondered whom Jesus was speaking of. No one noticed the final beam of light peeking out from the skyline vanish and submit to the darkness, concluding the sun’s time in the heavens. It was in its resting place for the night. 
                One by one they asked the Rabbi, “Surely not I?”
                Jesus swallowed a sip of wine to moisten his lips and appease his scratchy throat. He tightened his hands slightly then released them. “I am not referring to all of you. I know those I have chosen.” His eyes surveyed the room of expectant eyes.
                Judas gazed down at the table, his fingers tapping quietly. He didn’t blink. He knew it was coming. He tried not to think about it but he knew it would soon be known. He only wondered if Jesus would announce it to the other eleven. Surely he would be ostracized. He doubted they would still receive him in love. He wondered if they would believe him. He knew he wouldn’t if he were them. “But Jesus can not be the one!” He breathed erratically.
                John and Peter, sitting to the left of Jesus, were still in wonder.
                “Ask him which one he means,” Peter mumbled to John.
                John leaned toward Jesus and in hushed anguish he whispered, “Lord, who is it?”
Jesus, still being watched by the others, continued on with his thought. “But this is to fulfill the scripture. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.” With that Jesus mustered the strength to confront his betrayer with his sharp stare. Christ’s eyes fell on Judas sitting hunched over next to him. His eyes still fixed in a glare on the table but yet looking at nothing in particular. His jaw clenched sending pulsating ripples across his jaw line. His face was nearly desolate of color. Only a soft green veiled his cheeks. He couldn’t blink. His eyes burned. His skin pulled tightly over the skull. Judas’ lower lip trembled and every inch of him was in pain.
“But woe to the man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born...” Judas’ eyes shot up from the table to meet Jesus’ fixed stare. His eyes spoke his thoughts to Judas. “Yes, it is you.” For the first time Judas came to the complete realization of what he was actually about to do. His body stopped moving. For that instant, time stopped progressing and all he knew was fear and self-loathing. His heart minced in his chest, almost interrupting his lungs from breathing. A violent hollowness weighed down his stomach.
                Jesus stood and took the bread. He broke it and handed out small pieces to the twelve. He spoke a prayer of blessing over it then spoke. “This is my body broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” He signaled for them to all consume what he had given them and they all ate the bread slowly, unsure of what exactly was meant by his words. Judas choked down his piece with his eyes shut tight. He couldn’t bring himself to look anyone in the face. His mouth was dry and the bread, still rough, scratched at his throat. His skin was crawling. He felt his clothes rubbing on his skin.
Jesus then grasped his cup of wine, blessed it and spoke. “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many. I tell you the truth; I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God. Do this in remembrance of me.” They all drank together.
                Judas felt the wine burn in his chest as it passed through him. His hands quivered as he gently replaced his cup on the wooden tabletop. He gnashed his teeth.
 Jesus said a brief prayer and the others began to resume their dinner, humming about what he had just revealed to them. Jesus let them speak. He was done talking for the night. He reached for a piece of bread and dipped it into the dish. At that same moment Judas dipped his piece in as well. Their eyes connected. Judas was filled with fear and rage. His nostrils flared. His mind reeled and then in a flash, the words of the past prophets came pouring into his mind. A psalm he had read only nights before came barreling through his consciousness. His lips mouthed the words. Only the occasional hint of a syllable could be heard through his vaporous breaths of recollection. “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” Judas knew he was that prophecy fulfilled. His body felt cold and stiff as Jesus sat still peering back at him. The breeze brushed a strand of hair across Jesus’ face. Judas’ heart was filled with the purest hate. His spirit felt hot within his mind. He threw his bread down and left his place at the table to go sit on the windowsill. He peered up at the stars that now flickered in the desert sky. The cloth from the window lay upon him like a burial shroud. It separated him from the rest of room and muffled the noise from the others.
 The room was filled with prayer, some started to sing a Passover hymn. As their voices rose into the still night air, Jesus walked and kneeled beside Judas in the corner window. He pulled back the mantle and took both of Judas’ hands, a tear falling down his cheek. Jesus looked into his eyes for a moment. He felt the evil in Judas saturating in his skin, even out through his fingers tips. Just as Judas was about to mock an apology, Jesus spoke.
“What you are about to do,” he moved his eyes from floor up to Judas’ eyes with only a blink to fill the time, “do it quickly.” Christ’s heart welled up with sorrow. It weighed heavy inside of him. For a moment their glares locked. Jesus flashed his glace back and forth from eye to eye.
Judas’ mouth gaped. His eyes switched back and forth over Jesus’. His toes curled and he tore his hands away from Jesus and stormed out of the room, wiping the unbearable tears from his eyes. His sandals scuffled down the wooden steps and through the empty, moonlit street.
Judas wandered along the paths of Jerusalem that night. He walked the same streets over and over. No direction, no ambition, just aimless wandering. He stopped to pray occasionally in a peaceful, secluded corner, or even as he walked, shouting angry words to the heavens. He tore at his clothes in confusion. Finally he found himself in front of the temple. He stood in turmoil for what must have been ten minutes. Just staring at the entrance to the outer courts. He sighed and placed one foot on the bottom step then, as though being pulled inside, he drug his feet through the entryway. Judas found his way to the chief priests who were once again delighted to see him. They had been waiting for his final report.
Judas did not sleep all night. He paced the temple and the alleyways in deep concentration. His feet were bleeding and sore. His scalp was sensitive from pulling at his hair. Finally his soul submitted. He would do what he had started long ago. He would hand over his own friend.  He arranged with the soldiers that whomever he would kiss first that morning would be the man they must arrest.
The closing words of a prayer lingered on Jesus’ lips that morning when Judas entered the garden of Gethsemane. The other eleven watched in curiosity. They wondered why Judas was being escorted by a small handful of armed temple guards. Judas walked slowly to Jesus and paused just inches in front of him. He leaned toward Jesus, kissed him on the cheek and gathered enough strength to mutter a few words. His lips barely moved. With a hushed tone he spoke. “Greetings Rabbi.” Judas could not look him in the face.
Jesus pulled his cheek away from Judas’ lips. “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
Just then the disciples understood and drew their swords. “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” Before Jesus could answer, one did, amputating one of the ears of the servant of the high priest. Before any more blows could be thrown Jesus stepped in and shouted, “No more of this!” All obeyed without hesitation, even the Roman guards. Their hands sat stagnant by their sides as Jesus walked over to the servant lying screaming on the ground. The grass tickled his feet. He knelt down by the weeping man and laid his hand on his shoulder. Jesus touched the man’s ear and it was healed instantly. The man turned his face to toward the sky, up toward Jesus. He noticed a small, loving smile gleaming on Jesus’ lips; His eyes full of piercing beauty. Then the expression fell away to be replaced by that of dismay as Jesus slowly rose to turn and face the soldiers.
“Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Everyday I was with you in the temple courts and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour – when darkness reigns – but the scriptures must be fulfilled.” He walked to the guards to be arrested. But he saw them beginning to arrest the others with him in the garden and spoke out once more. “Who is it that you want? I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me then let these men go.”
Judas knew that at one point that Jesus had protected him as he did now with the others. He had always been safe. His heart was once again burdened. He had left the stronghold that once covered his head. “Of whom shall I be afraid?”
As Jesus was leaving the garden he looked to Peter, who still had his sword drawn. “Put your sword away. Shall I not drink the cup my Father has given me?” And with that he was escorted away.
The twelve stood reunited again in the garden. Judus’ head hung to his shoulder, looking down at his feet. His stomach anguished inside of him as though splitting apart, dashed on a sheer cliff. His toes looked dingy and cracked. He suffered the glares of the others. He felt their rage illuminating the entire garden. His heart beat in syncopated rhythm. Judas turned and followed the procession down the hill and back into the city.
Early the next morning there was a meeting of the priests and the elders of the people. They discussed the fate of the one they had arrested, the one who called himself Jesus. They found him guilty of claiming to be king. Only Caesar could be called king, so they knew this would bring Jesus the death penalty. The counsel had Jesus bound and led away to appear before Governor Pilate. Judas watched from the temple courts. He heard the plans. He knew Jesus would be flogged and crucified.
Judas knelt and let his tears fall slowly to the floor. His spirit of hate left him. “What have I done? Even if he is not the messiah, what crime did he commit?” He ran to the chief priest and held out the thirty pieces of silver.
Softly, with remorse in his voice he spoke. “I have sinned. For I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” They replied. “That is your responsibility.”
Judas looked at them horrified. He wondered how men who were considered to be so pure could commit such a horrible atrocity. His hand, in an instantaneous impulse, threw the silver at the nearest elder. The coins sprinkled across the room, clanging against the polished tile floors. Judas rushed out of the room. He drifted the streets and alleys of the city in a haze of turmoil. He walked with a drunken stagger. He was disoriented and lost.
Just outside the city he found a small potter’s field with a decrepit, twisted tree in an isolated corner. The dust from the field, once wet on his face from his tears, now felt hard and snapped when any wrinkle would emerge on his cheek. The sun blistered overhead. He had found a short rope by the small hut of the man who must have owned the field.
The tree sat over a small bank in the hill. All around the base were small ginger colored flowers. A single branch jetted out over the gully. Judas crawled out on the limb and tied one end of the rope a few feet out from the trunk. His hands trembled as he fastened the other end around his neck. His feet dangled as he sat on the limb. This would be his last few minutes. He sat in awe of the creation that panned out before him. One flower had made its way up the tree and sat beside him. It was almost red. It hinted that a soft breeze was blowing in. Its petals, too small to sway, merely twitched in the wind. The vast dusty plain crept up to the city walls off in the distance. The low hills rolled across the horizon and enclosed all that he could see.
Then his eyes fell upon them; faintly at first. He could barely distinguish them but there they were. Just detached from the furthest point of the city walls he could see them. A row of faint black crosses standing out in contrast against the russet hills. There were three that Judas could see. Two of them were already filled. The other was only the vertical trunk. It was missing its cross bar that would hold the victim up while he suffered.
Judas closed his eyes for the last time then looked up toward the gray open sky. Tasting the bitterness in his mouth, he let out a deep wheeze then let himself drop from the limb.
The sun rose with scorching heat and withered the plant. Its blossom fell and its beauty was destroyed. But Judas’ eyes never closed. They just peered aimlessly in the sun toward that single empty cross in the distance.