Nobody seemed to have noticed any change in him. There were moments when he looked at Jesus, or heard the familiar cadences of his voice, and his heart skipped wildly within him, or his hands shook a little. But nobody seemed to notice. Though he didn’t want them to notice, it served to harden his resentment. If they cared about him, if he was really one of them, wouldn’t they notice anyway? But he had always been the odd one out. The others were Galileans, he was a Judean. The others seemed content to follow Jesus around with no concern for where they were heading. They never asked where they would be in five years’ time, or ten. And Jesus was very guarded about any details of his plans. Maybe he didn’t have any? Surely the Messiah of God would have a clear path to victory and no exactly how to build his support? That was the least a disciple should expect! Meanwhile, a man must take care of himself, and if that meant taking an extra share from the common purse, well, what was so wrong with that when they never missed it?
Increasingly, it seemed to him, Jesus was doing the exact opposite. Every time there was a swell of public support he seemed to deliberately cut the ground out from under it. Why would God’s Messiah sabotage the advancement of his own kingdom?
The thought worried at him and would not let go. Was Jesus really the Messiah of Israel or not? He was aware of the mounting hostility of the religious leaders he had been taught to revere, and it disturbed him. Shouldn’t the Messiah unite them? Eventually the strain became too much; action must be taken to resolve it.
So, secretly, he went to the chief priests and arranged to hand Jesus over to them at a suitable time and place. That should resolve the dilemma. Either Jesus would be exposed as a sham, and he himself would be in favour with the winning side, or it would provoke Jesus to reveal his Messianic powers, and then, after all, he was one of the inner circle, and Jesus would probably be grateful. Either way, the issue would be resolved. And thirty pieces of silver would not go astray, either.
But it was hard to play a part in front of men he lived with so intimately, and the Passover meal together was especially difficult. When Jesus said, “One of you will betray me,” the stress was almost unbearable. Was he about to be exposed to his fellow disciples?
No, apparently not. But he was itching to get out of there, to resolve this thing once and for all, and when Jesus told him to go and do what he had to do, he knew it was time: time for action, time for decision, time to throw off the heavy burden of pretence that was weighing him down. He knew where Jesus was going next, he would be able to lead the temple guards straight there. After that, it would be out of his hands. Only one last act of pretence would be required of him, to go up to his former Master and greet him with a kiss …
He never guessed how that kiss would resonate through the ages to come. He never guessed how much it would be overshadowed by the eternal victory his Master was about to win through death and unspeakable suffering. He never guessed who his Master truly was.