They wouldn’t take his money back. Somehow, more than anything else that had happened in this last day or so (he had lost all track of time), that single detail undid him. He had thrown the money at their feet and stormed out. That moment of contempt was the last shred of his self-righteousness, and now even that was gone. His mind, his heart, his whole being, had become a dark and terrible void in which events and thoughts and feelings swirled without meaning or connection, then rearranged themselves into something so terrible that he shrank from giving it a name.
He could not even clearly remember his own motives now. It was almost as if they had come from outside of him, and slunk in, masked and hooded, never offering their names, to take up residence in the nooks and crannies of his psyche as if those gaping holes of doubt and fear had been made to measure for them. He had been walking in a strange fog and now the fog had lifted and he was horrified to find himself in a quicksand – filthy beyond description and inexorably sinking.
He remembered when the agent of the priests had first approached him. Oh, they knew their man! He could imagine the blazing scorn with which Simon Peter would have responded to such a suggestion. And as for John? The love he felt for Jesus left no room for that particular disloyalty. So why himself? What made him, Judas, so different? Why was he so greedily eager to soil himself with their plots?
It wasn’t any one single thing. There was always the lure of money, of course. Any sane man needed some security for the future. And there was the dull, throbbing jealousy eating away at him because Jesus always seemed to favour some of the others, like that oaf, Peter, or that idealistic simpleton John, even Thomas, the perpetual pessimist, above himself. Did no one care that he was smart, canny, a good tactician, and a great networker? And there was the feeling, never quite defined, that things were getting off course, that Jesus’ campaign (whatever exactly it was?) was floundering and needed a nudge in a new direction. Surely, if they cornered him, he would do something amazing and the crowds would return? When Jesus had told him to go and do what he had to, he had somehow almost convinced himself that Jesus was in the conspiracy too. Only now did he see how ludicrous that was. Besides, and it had never occurred to him till now, he had been flattered that the great men of Israel had noticed him and confided in him.
It was no use. There was no excuse, no justification for what he had done. This rejection, by the priests and elders was the ultimate rejection. He had betrayed the innocent, and sent him to death. There was blood on his hands. And when, desperately, he had sought absolution, they offered only scornful indifference. There was nothing left. He did not know that the very one he had betrayed was, himself, the sacrifice for sin, and the source of forgiveness and reconciliation for all mankind.
So Judas went out and hanged himself.