Not what I signed up for

I didn’t sign up for this. 

He lied to me. 

I put my entire life on hold. He promised me we would change the world. 

Progress was slow at first, but we eventually gained followers. Every time something spectacular happened, the crowds grew. As the masses expanded, so did our bank account. Fame, success, and money, what could be better than that?! 

I always considered myself one of his closest advisors. I devised a plan early on. It was simple and easy to execute. 

First, make sure the crowds keep growing. The more people you influence, the quicker your reputation will spread. If you want to reach a goal, having vast numbers of people behind you makes the journey a lot easier. Above all else, become famous! Fame unlocks the door to greatness. 

Second, amass all the power you can. Whoever is in control gets to call the shots. Communicate how you would do things differently if you were in charge. People need to believe in your ability to rule. Overthrowing a corrupt government requires a powerful response. 

Next, assure religious people that you don’t want to upset their way of life. You need these people to like you to get things done. The ends justify the means. Avoid calling out hypocrisy at all costs.

Finally, keep the money flowing. Anything worth doing takes resources. Big change happens with big amounts of cash! If something hurts the bottom line, it hurts you. You’ll never get where you want to go if your bank account doesn’t match your vision. 

Why didn’t he listen to me? 

When the crowds grew, he would say something ridiculous and let them walk away. 

Instead of performing miraculous signs when his power was challenged, he would refuse the spotlight. 

He chose to spend his time with rejects rather than developing connections with influential people. 

He reserved his harshest critiques for the religious elites he needed on his side. 

He let a woman pour expensive perfume on his feet instead of cashing in the bottle to line our coffers. His entire way of life mocked my advice. 

What was I supposed to do?

Sometimes the only way to make sure someone pays attention is to make them feel pain when they don’t. It was a bonus to make a little cash in the process.  

I knew the only way for him to get the message was to turn him over to the people he criticized. It was a brilliant strategy! In a poetic bit of justice, I would reveal his identity by kissing him. Other than that, I didn’t have to do anything. They would make him suffer for his stubborn attitude. Maybe a severe beating would snap him back to his senses. I could almost hear his voice telling me, “You were right all along!”

But it didn’t stop at the beating. 

How was I supposed to know? 

They got the government to issue him a death sentence. Crowds that cheered for him only a few days earlier were yelling for him to be crucified. I became physically ill as I watched it all unfold. This wasn’t my plan either! 

I had to do something! I ran to the religious leaders and threw the coins they gave me back at their feet. They showed no emotion. Their only response was, “Get over it.” They didn’t even acknowledge how important I was to their success.  

They lied to me. 

“Judas, what do you do now?” The thought kept rattling around my head like a fly caught inside a bottle. The only response that came to my mind was…

I didn’t sign up for this. 

I’m signing out. 

Killing a King

He deserved it.

I should know. I’ve seen a lot of criminals in my life.

They don’t get handed over to me because they are boy scouts. If I told you what some of those low-life scumbags have done, you’d want to wash your ears out.

My job might not make you feel warm and cozy inside. Honestly, I don’t care! I keep you safe and comfortable. You might not like me, but you NEED me!

I’m the ultimate deterrent. I know how to make someone feel so much pain they wish they were dead but I can keep them alive, like a barely-breathing billboard. It is an advertisement that shouts to everyone who passes by, “Don’t mess with Rome…the biggest, baddest, empire on the planet!”

Supposedly, that man was the leader of an uprising. He claimed to be a king.

My fellow soldiers and I decided to show him what happens when you mess with the real king…Caesar!

We laughed as we beat him with rods and whipped him until chunks of his flesh were flying from his body.

I expected him to direct the usual string of expletives at us. Vile words fuel me. They let me know I’m doing my job well. This guy didn’t say anything to us. Nothing! We beat him harder to make sure he got the message.

After we were done with him, we came up with the hilarious idea of giving him the “royal treatment”. We draped “his majesty” in a purple robe and jammed a crown made of thorns on his head.

We laughed again until we couldn’t breathe.

Apparently, the crowd didn’t think their king was humiliated enough. They shouted for us to crucify him. My friends and I were more than happy to oblige.

Then something happened that I can’t explain. As I grabbed him to take him away, he turned his bloody face toward mine. His expression should have oozed anger and hate but I swear it looked like he felt sorry for me.

I gave him another uncomfortable laugh and shoved him away.

The next several hours were pretty normal for executions. We forced him up a hill. Dislocated his shoulders, drove some nails into his arms and lifted him into place. He still never rained down cursing on us (or any of the spectators gawking at him).

Eventually, we got to relax. We played a game to decide who got to keep his clothes.

I didn’t hear him say much (it’s tough to talk when you are hanging from an old piece of wood) but I swore he uttered the words “forgive them”.

About that time, the sky grew dark. I shifted nervously as my laughing grew more and more uncomfortable.

Even though his death only took a few hours, it felt like an eternity.

When he gasped his last breath there was a violent earthquake. It seemed like the ground beneath our feet was grieving. In horror, one of my fellow soldiers cried out, “He was a son of the gods!”

My laughing stopped.

Questions raced through my mind.

“Who was this man?” “Why did he really die?”

Even worse, “If I killed an innocent king, am I the one who deserves to die?”

I flashed back to the time he stared directly at me. If there is a king who would look at me with love after everything I’d done to him, HE is the kind of king I would give my life to follow.

Good Friday from a chilling perspective

I am a religious leader. I make it a top priority to carefully cultivate a love for God in my life. One of my other primary responsibilities is caring for the people I have been entrusted to guide.

It is a high calling and I do everything within my power to take it seriously. I’ve studied for hours on end. In an attempt to make my words match my actions, I’ve set up a series of rules to help me avoid the appearance of doing anything improper. Naturally, I demand that those who are following me observe the same code of ethics.

There are many threats to this way of life but perhaps the biggest is teachers who lead massive numbers of people astray. It happens all the time. Presumptive leaders tell the crowds what they WANT to hear instead of what they NEED to hear. This gives them a sizeable following. Then, they use that popularity as a way to control and manipulate.

I am always on the lookout for these imposters. I am vigilant about what others teach and compare it to what I have studied for years. If the two don’t match up, I have learned to take action quickly; our country, our independence and our way of life depend on it.

A little over three years ago, one of these false leaders rose from relative obscurity. From the very beginning I suspected that something was wrong with his teaching. He didn’t study under any religious professor but he spoke like a person with authority. He seemed to have unique power but if I didn’t know with certainty where he came from, how could I ever know the origin of his power?!

There were signs that he could be special. Huge crowds gathered because blind people started seeing with 20/20 vision and others who were never able to walk were running around. Thankfully, I knew all this was a façade. After all, occasionally he did these things on a day we weren’t supposed to do any work.

Sometimes this same man would tell people he forgave them of everything they had done wrong in life. This included all their outward behaviors as well as all the attitudes they held in their hearts. Obviously, no one can forgive these things except God.

Finally, this man had the audacity to claim he was equal with God. I knew it was the final straw. We had to take drastic measures to make sure this message didn’t spread further. The worst-case scenario seemed to be a plausible reality. The delicate balance of order and control we had worked diligently to foster with the government could come crumbling down.

Last night, my fellow religious leaders and I had the man arrested in the darkness in order to avoid a scene. When a mob brought him before our council, his fate was a foregone conclusion.

At first I was frustrated. We couldn’t get any witnesses to agree on a crime he had committed. Eventually though he slipped up like I knew he would. He claimed to be God in front of all of us! It was all we needed. We knew that we could convince the government that he was trying to start an insurrection and execute him.

It turns out, that was easier said than done. Government officials didn’t instantly see things our way. They tried using every tactic they could to release him but in a stroke of genius, we found the phrase that finally got them to cave…

“We have no king except for Caesar!”

We all know that only God is our true king but the ends justify the means, right? The man needed to be killed for his blasphemy.

A simple charge hung over him at his execution. He was a king.

Can you imagine if this man was alive? People might surrender to him. I might have to give up my right for influence and importance. His followers might value honoring him more than they value their country, their traditions or the relative peace and comfort we have created.

No. Like I said, I do everything within my power to take my job seriously.