The streets were quiet as we made our way through Jerusalem. Most people were home enjoying their meal and celebrating the beginning of the holidays with their family. Even those with less than honourable reasons for being out seemed to be taking the evening off. We encountered the occasional Roman soldier, but even they seemed subdued. It was as if the entire city was preparing itself for the tragedy that was about to unfold.

As we walked, I tried to reason with Jesus, “It doesn’t have to end this way. Just say the word, and Iscariot and the Zealot can get the word out . . .”

“And what? This is how it’s supposed to be, and besides that, I will be alone before the night is out. Not one of you will stand with me when I need you most. You’ll be like sheep when something happens to the shepherd.”

“Stop it, that’s not fair, and you know it. We’ve always been there for you, and that’s not going to change. And even if the rest desert you, I won’t. I have your back. Even if I have to die with you, I will never desert you, ever.”

“Peter, seriously, I don’t need you to die for me. I need you to live for me. And that will come later, but tonight won’t be your finest hour. Before the rooster crows twice, you will have denied me three times.” And then he turned and walked away from my protests.

The streets became narrower until they became a path leading into a garden. The olive trees were a familiar sight. There were other times that Jesus brought us to this very spot when he wanted time away from the crowds.

“Peter, I want you, John, and James to come with me. The rest of you can wait for us. Grab a nap. You’ll need it.” Early in the story, there was a time there would have been protests from the others, but they had gotten used to Jesus spending extra time with the three of us. I know Andrew felt slighted and left out because we had talked about it. I have to assume the others felt the same.

Jesus led us deeper into the grove, “Guys, I can’t even begin to describe what lies ahead for us, but it will require more than I have to give. I need to find a quiet place to talk to my Father, and I need you to pray for me as you’ve never prayed before.”

As we watched Jesus walk away, James said, “Well, I guess we better pray. Let’s get comfortable.”    

That may have been a mistake, not the praying part, the comfortable part. I was exhausted. Our day had started before dawn in Bethany, then there was the walk to Jerusalem, getting things ready for the meal, the meal itself, and then Jesus’ announcement about his death and our midnight walk to the garden.

I found a tree to lean against, closed my eyes, and….when I opened them, Jesus was standing in front of me, shaking his head.

“Just an hour, all I needed was for you to pray for me for an hour.” I was just about to explain when Judas stepped into the clearing. We hadn’t seen him since he left to pay Abigail for our meal.

“He’s here, just like I told you he’d be.” Judas turned and spoke to the group of men following him. Didn’t he realize that this wasn’t the time or place for Jesus to be healing people? And then Judas stepped up and kissed Jesus on the cheek.

“So, that’s how it’s going to be, Judas? A kiss? Really? You’re betraying me with a kiss? You know this isn’t going to end the way you think it will.”

Then I noticed that those behind Judas were the personal guards of Caiaphas, the high priest.

Judas turned back to the guards, “I’ve done what I was paid to do. The rest is up to you.” And he walked away.

“Wait, Judas, what just happened? Where are you going?” But he ignored me and just kept walking, his head down, avoiding my eyes

As the group of guards reached for Jesus, I acted without thinking. Pulling out the short sword we all wore, I took a swing at the guard closest to Jesus. I don’t know what I was trying to do, but the guard let out a scream and fell to his knees with blood streaming from his head. I hadn’t wanted to hurt him, I just wanted him to leave Jesus alone, and now I’d killed a temple guard. I’d never see Esther again. This was the end. It was over.

“Peter, put that thing away. It’s going to get you killed.” Jesus reached down and picked the man’s ear up from the ground, looked at it, and just stuck it back where it belonged. And it stayed there. The bleeding stopped, and the screaming stopped. The man looked at Jesus and slowly backed away. I don’t know what frightened him more, me slicing his ear off or Jesus putting it back on.

Jesus looked at the guards, “I know you’re just doing your jobs, but you could have waited until morning. It’s not like I’ve been trying to hide. I’ve been in the temple every day.”

The one in charge tied Jesus’ hands behind his back like a common criminal and pushed him down the path, “I’m sorry it had to come to this, but you had to keep poking at those in charge. How did you expect it to end?”

We couldn’t let this happen; there were more of us than there were of them. All we had to do was get Jesus away from them. When the crowds heard what was happening, they would protect him. But when I turned around, I was alone. Jesus was right. They were like sheep. And as they dragged Jesus away, I followed. From a distance.

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